Charlotte Hornets star LaMelo
Ball has had a terrific month.
Not only did the 19-year-old win
the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award and headline the All-Rookie
First Team, he became the first athlete to launch a dynamic NFT
(and made a ton of money as a result).
For those who don’t know, NFTs
(Non-Fungible Tokens) are
essentially digital collectibles. And a dynamic NFT is a digital
collectible that can evolve and unlock additional perks based on
real-world events. In Ball’s case, his dynamic NFTs are tied to his
NBA stats and achievements.
Ball has one of the best-selling
athlete NFTs of all-time, behind only Patrick Mahomes, Rob
Gronkowski and Francis Ngannou. Mahomes, Gronk and Ngannou launched
their NFTs in March, when the market peaked. In the months since,
LaMelo’s NFT has been the top seller in the sports space, beating
out NFTs from Floyd Mayweather, Damian Lillard and Major League
Baseball among others.
Many athletes have released
NFTs, but Ball found several ways to differentiate his. Not only is
he the first athlete with a dynamic NFT tied to his stats, Ball
attached real-life perks to his digital collectibles. LaMelo is
giving away autographed memorabilia, 500 NBA tickets, his
high-school championship ring and more, and anyone who bought one
of his NFTs is entered to win.
Because each token essentially
serves as a raffle ticket for these giveaways, they appeal to all
of his fans (even those who aren’t particularly interested in
“Creating a community with as
much reach as Melo’s, we’re using NFTs to segment his fans with
token-specific perks and then rewarding those fans throughout his
career to make a gamified experience like never before,” said Sher
Chaudhary, the co-founder of Playground, the NFT design studio
that’s working with Ball.
There are four tiers of LaMelo’s
NFTs: Red Mars, Blue Neptune, Silver Moon and Gold Sun. They are
each tied to a different NBA stat or achievement.
For example, Silver Moon is tied
to LaMelo's real-life assists. So, every time Ball records an
assist in an NBA game, the NFT updates in real-time and
(presumably) becomes more valuable. This will also allow Ball to
celebrate certain accomplishments with his fans. For instance, he
could do a giveaway or unlock certain perks when he records his
Think of it like a trading card
where the stats are always up-to-date and, if the player succeeds,
the collector reaps the rewards.
“This is the first dynamic NFT
issued by an athlete — or the first NFT to include a player’s
statistics in its metadata,” Chaudhary explained. “Those stats
update in real-time without any manual entry. Melo can issue
rewards to fans based on milestones he sets, like passing a set
number of triple-doubles in a season or receiving a specific NBA
Gold Sun, the most-expensive
tier, was tied to Ball winning the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
It basically allowed fans to place a predictive bet that Ball would
win the award. Once Ball was officially announced as the Rookie of
the Year, the NFT evolved and unlocked additional
The idea is that as Ball
continues to succeed on the court -- racking up more stats and
achievements -- his NFTs will update, unlock perks and become even
more highly coveted.
“When I found out that my tokens
could 'know' my stats and awards over time and update themselves, I
just knew that was something I never heard before, so I got
interested,” Ball said in a statement to
“Nobody's done it this way, and
I'm big on doing things differently. I've been learning about what
Chainlink does with real-life data and stats as well as how popular
NFTs are. People reached out to do NFT art with me, but it seems
way more fun to put my stats on the blockchain
It’s paying off in a big way.
Looking at the sales on Ball’s NFT
website, it’s unclear
exactly how much LaMelo has made, but it’s safe to say it's over
Gold Sun #1 was auctioned off
for 30 ETH (worth approximately $80,640 at the time of the sale).
The winner also received the autographed pair of shoes that Ball
wore when he recorded his first NBA triple-double (becoming the
youngest player in NBA history to do this).
Ball sold over 100 Gold Suns
(around $6,000 each) as well as hundreds of Silver Moons (around
$2,600 each), over 1,100 Blue Neptunes (around $260 each) and all
6,500 Red Mars (around $26 each).
“All credit to the fans, really;
they've supported me at every step, even since high school,” Ball
said. “I think it's really cool that thousands of people are
joining the NFT world to be a part of this community.”
In the future, will we see more
celebrities and athletes use dynamic NFTs to interact with their
fans and give away exclusive memorabilia and
“I hope so,” Ball said. “[For]
athletes, definitely; everybody follows our stats and
“I think we’ve created a clear
model for athletes,” Chaudhary added. “But now I’m even more
excited to see how celebrities outside the sports world can bring
real-life data to their NFTs — maybe musicians and stream counts,
or movie studios and box-office sales.”
After NBA Top Shot exploded in
popularity earlier this year and introduced many basketball fans to
NFTs, it briefly piqued Ball's interest. Ball's moments
are some of the most-highly-coveted and expensive on NBA Top Shot's
marketplace. Hornets guard Terry Rozier tweeted about purchasing
several of his teammates' moments (including LaMelo's), so Ball
asked what it was. "Put me on," Ball tweeted.
About an hour-and-a-half later,
Ball sent a second (and final) tweet about NBA Top
Shot. He quote-tweeted a post about a LeBron James moment selling
for $208,000 and asked, "What LeBron get off it?"
To answer Ball's question,
players don't receive much money from Top Shot. For every sale, Top
Shot takes a 5% fee, which they split with the NBA and NBPA. The
NBPA's portion of the revenue is divvied up evenly among the
players. So, stars like LaMelo and LeBron get the same revenue
check as a bench player with a cheap moment. (Revenue generated
from NBA-jersey sales is divided in the same way.)
Perhaps that's when LaMelo
decided to venture into the NFT space on his own.
If he was going to get involved in
crypto collectibles, he would do it his way and benefit from his
“I feel like NBA Top Shot made
everybody know what NFTs are,” Ball says, “and my team is helping
me take NFTs to the next level.”