Last night, the Dallas Mavericks took on the Golden State Warriors in what was seemingly an inconsequential game in terms of the bigger picture — the overall NBA standings and playoff wouldn’t be shaken up by the result. From a franchise standpoint, however, it was huge.
Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest power forwards in Mavericks’ history was getting a true sendoff: His number 41 jersey was being retired and sent into the rafters after 19 years with the team, which included a championship in 2011. Outside of the usual ceremonial proceedings, Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas ball club, decided to offer fans exclusive NFTs for everyone in attendance.
A total of 20,000 NFTs were minted on the Polygon blockchain to the owner the event. Fans needed to scan their ticket before the end of the first quarter in order to claim their piece of digital history. Cuban is no stranger to crypto, as he has been offering NFTs for every home game that takes place in the Mavericks’ arena — the venture is a joint partnership with Ticketmaster and 20,000 are minted per game.
Crypto’s influence on sports — This NBA season has been somewhat synonymous with crypto indoctrinations. On Christmas, Staples Center, the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers was renamed to Crypto.com arena in what was the biggest U.S. venue naming rights deal to date. Around the same time Steph Curry turned the shoes he was wearing to break the NBA’s 3-point record, into an NFT.
“The whole idea is not to try to sell [the NFTs] and try to make some money off them. The whole idea is to reward fans for coming,” said Mark Cuban in an interview with Forty-Eight Minutes. “Let’s say Luka has a 30 assist game. There are going to be 500,000 people that say they were there, right? But the reality is, the people that are actually there and scan in are the ones that are going to get the NFT commemorating that game... We want it to be a value add for all Mavs fans that go to games.”
While I don’t think Cuban is necessarily trying to bleed money out of his fanbase, the early pivot to NFT giveaways during every home game is clearly opportunistic. Aside from securing a partnership with Ticketmaster, the Mavericks have launched their own platform for fans to sell and trade the NFTs they get throughout the year, with some trading from anywhere between $125 to $10,000.
This will almost certainly just be the first domino to fall in the NBA’s growing relationship with NFTs and crypto at large.