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What is NBA Top Shot? Buy Moments & Packs with These Tips to Make Money

Matt LaMarca breaks down the basics that you need to know before getting involved with NBA Top Shot.

NBA: All Star Game-Team Lebron vs Team Durant Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As long as you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard some mention of NBA Top Shot. It’s the latest craze that has swept through Twitter, particularly for those who enjoy things like DFS and sports betting. There have also been numerous features about the product, including on ESPN, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and even CNBC.

That said, the concept of NBA Top Shot can be a little confusing – and possibly even intimidating – for those who are still uninitiated. In this piece, I’m going to walk through some of the most common questions regarding NBA Top Shot and all the basics you need to know to navigate the site. Think of this as NBA Top Shot Cheat Sheet.

Let’s dive right in.

What is NBA Top Shot?

Quite simply, NBA Top Shot is essentially a collection of virtual NBA trading cards. Instead of buying physical cards of players, you are investing in certain “Moments” from some of your favorite NBA players. These can include dunks, game-winning shots and filthy crossovers just to name a few. Each moment is assigned a serial number, which is used to differentiate copies of the same moment. For example, NBA Top Shot could choose to create a moment of a LeBron James dunk, and there could be 15,000 different copies of that moment that are all assigned different serial numbers.

More specifically, these moments are part of a larger online movement regarding Non-fungible Tokens, or NFTs for short. NFTs utilize blockchain technology to store the complete history of certain collectibles. NBA Top Shot is one example of this, but there are other NFTs that are gaining in popularity on a near-daily basis. Not only does this allow you to view when each collectible was created, but it also contains a complete transaction log for each item. Essentially, NFTs have taken the world of collectibles and moved them into the digital age.

Do you own the “rights” to the Moments?

This is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to understanding NBA Top Shot. The short answer is no, you do not own the rights to whatever moments you acquire. If ESPN wants to show your moment on TV, they don’t need to send you a nickel in the mail. The highlights are available for free on platforms like YouTube.

That said, that doesn’t necessarily make your moment less valuable. A Luka Doncic rookie card – which was made by the traditional sports card company Panini – recently sold for $4.6M. That doesn’t change the fact that I can print out a copy of Doncic’s picture or look up his stats on basketball reference. There is nothing proprietary about owning a Doncic rookie card, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a valuable commodity. The exclusivity of the asset is what drives the value, not the fact that the information is readily available.

How much are these Moments worth?

As with everything in life, it varies. The top moments from the top players can go as high as six figures, while other moments will sell for less than $10.

Right now, there are three different levels of moments that you can invest in: Common, Rare and Legendary.

The Common moments are the most abundant, which typically makes them the cheapest to acquire. Some common moments for players like LeBron James, Doncic and Steph Curry still go for plenty of dough, but the non-superstar commons are the cheapest you’ll find on NBA Top Shot.

Within common moments, there are two different subsets: Limited Edition (LE) and Circulating Count (CC). These two little letters can make a huge difference. LE moments are limited in terms of circulation. If a moment is capped at 15,000, there will never be more than 15,000 copies of that specific moment minted. CC moments can be increased to meet further demand. Some of the common moments from Series 2 – which was released at the beginning of the current NBA season – are listed at 35,000+. That means that they can continue to keep minting moments well past 35,000 copies.

Once again, it’s all about exclusivity. The rarer a moment is, the more you can typically expect to pay for it.

To put that in perspective, there are three common LeBron moments that have been released in Series 2. One of those moments was capped at 7,500, one was capped at 15,000 and the other is a CC (35,000+). Here’s how the pricing on those moments breaks down:

· 7,500 LE — $875 low ask

· 15,000 LE — $619 low ask

· 35,000+ CC — $103 low ask

Rare moments are the next step up from commons. They are all LE moments, and they are minted in far lower volume. All of the Series 1 rares are minted at 299 or less, while the Series 2 rares are all minted at 2,021 or less.

Legendary moments are at the top of the food chain (for now). These are the rarest moments, and some of them in Series 1 had just 49 copies minted. Whenever you hear about a moment selling for an absurd amount of money, it’s a good bet that it is from the legendary series.

There will also be Ultimate moments at some point in the future, and those will be even more coveted than legendaries. NBA Top Shot has done a good job of avoiding some of the most recognizable moments in NBA history – think Kawhi Leonard’s shot over Joel Embiid or LeBron James’ block on Andre Iguodala – so most people expect these moments to garner the ultimate designation when they are eventually minted.

How do I acquire moments?

There are two ways to purchase moments: The marketplace and pack drops.

The marketplace is the easiest way to get moments currently. Every moment that has already been acquired by a user can be listed there. These moments will differ in price, but you can find at least one copy of virtually every moment on the marketplace.

Within the marketplace, you can sort by a variety of factors. If you want to view all the moments for a different player, you can do that. If you want to view all the moments from a certain set – like the 2021 All-Star set that was just released on Friday – you can do that. If you want to view all the rare or legendary moments, you can do that.

You can also sort by the lowest asking cost if you want to view all the moments under a certain threshold. That allows you to set your budget, view the moments that fit, and choose your favorite one.

Overall, the marketplace is very intuitive if you have a general idea of what you’re looking for.

The process for buying packs is a bit more difficult at the moment. To put it simply, the demand for the packs is significantly more than the supply.

In order to keep the moments valuable, NBA Top Shot is doing a great job of controlling how available each moment is. After all, a rare moment wouldn’t be very rare if everyone who wanted one could just get it out of a pack.

The packs have always turned into an easy flipping opportunity for people who are looking to make a profit. NBA Top Shot has kept the prices on packs cheap enough where basically everyone who gets one is guaranteed to profit off it. That may not always be the case, but it’s the case at the moment.

That’s one of the biggest differences between buying a pack of physical sports cards and buying a pack on Top Shot. A regular pack of NBA cards could have anything in it. You could have a rare card worth thousands of dollars or you could get absolutely nothing. With NBA Top Shot, you know exactly what you’re getting before purchasing it. If you’re buying a common pack – which has cost around $9 – you’re going to get three common moments. If you’re buying a rare pack, you’re going to get one rare moment and six commons. Legendary pack drops have been infrequent, but those have typically included one legendary moment, three rare moments, and six commons. Given how popular Top Shot has become, it is virtually impossible for the moments in each pack to be worth less than the cost itself. Again, there’s no guarantee that the market stays like that forever – I would bet that it wouldn’t – but that is why packs are so tough to get at this particular time.

Is this sustainable or is it a bubble?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to give you a definitive answer to this question. That said, there are a lot of signs that NBA Top Shot is here to stay.

For starters, the NBA is arguably the fastest growing sport in the world. It has global popularity, particularly among younger fans. There are approximately 200,000 users on Top Shot currently, which is just a drop in the bucket in terms of people who watch basketball across the globe.

Believe it or not, signup has actually been so crazy that the site has had to disable it at certain times. That’s obviously not great for those who are looking to get in, but it’s important to keep in mind that NBA Top Shot is a startup company that has experienced rapid growth virtually overnight. Once they improve their bandwidth, it should improve the overall site experience for old users and new users alike.

Additionally, the physical card market has exploded over the past year. Products that used to cost $100-$200 are now going for thousands. If an older market like that can see that kind of growth, why can’t Top Shot?

In my humble opinion, everything that the physical card market has going for it is done better by Top Shot. You don’t have to worry about “protecting” your moments. You don’t have to worry about getting your moments graded. You don’t have to worry about buying counterfeit moments. That is what’s so beautiful about the experience being digital and fully transparent.

We are also extremely early in the NBA Top Shot process. In the future, we could see developments like autographed moments or other cool features that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Of course, the big difference between physical trading cards and NBA Top Shot is that you don’t actually own a card that you can hold in your hands. That might be a downfall for some people – probably the same ones who still like the feel of a newspaper – but I would argue that it doesn’t matter. The younger generation is used to pumping money into assets that are only available online. Video games like FIFA, NBA2K, and Madden make billions of dollars every year selling packs in their online game modes. Unlike Top Shot, those assets become completely useless just one year later when a new game comes out.

Ultimately, we’re headed towards a world where everything is online. NFTs are just the logical next step in the process.

Ok, I’m convinced. Do you have any tips for getting started?

I’m glad you asked. There are plenty of things to keep in mind when purchasing a moment, but there are a few basics that I think about:

1. The player matters

This is pretty obvious, but it bears repeating. The player involved in the moment is the most important factor in its long-term value.

If we’re comparing NBA Top Shot to the physical card market, the only players who have long-term value are the true superstars of the league. Guys like LeBron and Michael Jordan have seen their cards skyrocket in the physical card market, and I would expect the same to be true of NBA Top Shot.

After that, it’s all about potential. People love to gamble, and the allure of grabbing exposure to “the next” superstar is tantalizing. This is why players like Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson are among the most desirable assets currently. They’re still scratching the surface of their talent, so who knows where their ceiling lies? Players like that routinely go for more than established stars, even though there’s a chance that they fail to live up to the hype.

2. The moment matters

Rookie cards dominate the physical card space. The rookie card is usually the first for a particular player in their NBA uniform, which makes it extremely desirable.

This is also going to be true in Top Shot, with a slight twist. Since the site didn’t come into existence until last year, it’s not going to be possible to have true “rookie” cards for anyone who entered the league before last season. That means that the first moment that gets minted on Top Shot can essentially be treated like their rookie card.

NBA Top Shot also has the added wrinkle of it being a moment instead of a picture. That opens the door for the historical significance of the moment to also matter. For example, LeBron’s physical card from last year isn’t all that significant. But what about the moment where he did the Kobe tribute dunk? That obviously matters quite a bit.

3. The serial number matters

The serial number is essentially like the birth date on a particular card: the lower the number, the earlier the birthday. The moments with lower serial numbers have become the most desirable for that reason, with the No. 1 serial number possessing the most significance.

Additionally, the serial number that matches a player’s jersey number carries added value. For example, any Doncic moment that is numbered “77” is going to go for way more than the No. 76 moment. It’s all about collectability, and collectors love that kind of stuff.

4. The scarcity matters

This is what I see as the biggest flaw in the NBA Top Shot marketplace at the moment. Common moments are obviously the easiest entry point into the site, but I don’t see a ton of long-term sustainability with those assets. A common NBA card that you pull from a regular pack of physical cards is essentially worthless if it’s not for LeBron or a player of his caliber. If you don’t believe me, just ask eBay.

At the same time, I think you can make the case that rare and legendary moments are undervalued. I have focused the majority of my collection around rares from Series 1, which were minted to 299 or less. That is going to be an extremely scarce number long term. Rares from Series 2 are already being minted out to 2021, which makes them seven times more common.

I’m not saying that you should ignore all the other rules I laid out above – I wouldn’t buy a moment for a player I didn’t like just because it was rare – but the rarity of the moment is what’s going to determine the long-term value.