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A short video of LeBron James has sold for over $200,000 as fans continue to lap up the new 'Top Shot' online platform.
'Top Shot' allows users to buy short videos of sequences from NBA games before selling them again for an increased price.
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Similar to the stock market but for sports lovers, the new virtual market has enjoyed astonishing early success.
One video clip of LeBron, lasting no more than a few dozen seconds, instantly became a collector's item and sold on Monday for an eye-popping US$208,000 ($AU268,000).
The video sequence is an "NFT" - a Non-Fungible Token - a virtual object whose identity, authenticity and traceability are theoretically indisputable and tamper-proof, thanks to the same "blockchain" technology used to ensure the security of cryptocurrencies like the hugely popular Bitcoin.
Launched in early October by Canadian firm Dapper Labs in partnership with the NBA, 'Top Shot' allows customers to buy and sell these short video clips - called "moments" - at prices that vary depending on demand and rarity.
Dapper Labs selects and sells the clips, in numbers varying from one single copy to hundreds of identical "moments."
Once the sale is recorded on the platform, clips can change hands, from one collector to another, an unlimited number of times.
Dapper Labs takes a small commission from each sale, and a percentage is shared with the NBA and the players association.
Top Shot explodes as fans flock to online platform
After a slow start, Top Shot's business has exploded since January, generating more than $200 million in transactions since the start of the year.
By Wednesday, Top Shot was approaching its first 100,000 buyers.
The Momentranks website, which says it provides "accurate, real-time moment valuations," puts the current value of the market at US$1.8 billion.
Ironically, most of the video clips being sold can be viewed for free elsewhere on the internet, primarily on YouTube.
"I totally understand the initial reaction of 'I don’t get it' or 'This seems stupid,'" Jonathan Bales, who spent $35,000 for one "moment," wrote on his Lucky Maverick blog.
"But guess what? There’s a whole generation of young, smart people who’ve grown up in a fundamentally different way from me and you, so whether or not we 'get' the future is irrelevant to how it will transpire."
I want to show my gratitude and do a little giveaway! LeBron James Series 2 #4476/7,500 LE (floor $2,299). Simply follow me, retweet and comment your Top Shot account below. I’ll randomly select one winner in 24 hours. Good luck! @nba_topshot pic.twitter.com/2GMX0quVak
— gяєєкƒяєαк (@art4crypto) February 27, 2021
Steve Poland, creator of the Mighty Minted site, recalled his own initial reaction.
"I signed up for an account, and then just instantly, it just clicked, it was like, this is the future," he said.
"And this is now. And this is what collectibles are going to become in the future."
Fans of NFTs see them as an alternative to traditional collectors' markets that are often unregulated and opaque, whether involving sales of baseball cards or art works by masters.
"The technology is better than the offline world stuff," said Poland.
"I mean, there are fake Picasso's out there, there are fake Van Gogh's out there (whereas) these are confirmed to be real."
Poland said the new technology will initially work best with high-profile brands like the NBA, which are well-known by the public and confer a sense of trust in this completely new and unfamiliar universe.
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