Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball will become the first athlete to enter the world of dynamic nonfungible tokens (NFTs) when he releases a set of 500 prior to the announcement of the NBA Rookie of the Year in June, ESPN has learned.
NFTs are unique blockchain-based tokens that give owners specific rights to the asset -- photograph, video clip, artwork -- they represent. Dynamic NFTs are a recent technological advancement and, unlike conventional NFTs, have the ability to change over time. If Ball is named Rookie of the Year, the 500 NFTs will automatically update to include the award, which is expected to increase the value of the collectible.
"As I learn more about blockchain, I realize this is the most powerful and unique way to engage my fans in a way that's special to them individually," Ball tells ESPN. "I see this as the future for fans and athletes connecting together."
Ball, 20, is one of three finalists for Rookie of the Year, joining Minnesota's Anthony Edwards and Sacramento's Tyrese Haliburton. Ball, who averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game, is considered the front-runner for the award. He missed 21 games with a broken wrist in a season that ended with the Hornets finishing 10th in the NBA Eastern Conference and losing to the Indiana Pacers in a play-in game.
Ball is the first athlete to release this type of speculative asset tied to his awards, highlights and statistical milestones. Ball plans to create lotteries that will allow owners of the dynamic NFTs to "burn" them in exchange for a chance to win memorabilia such as game-worn shoes. Each "burned" NFT makes those that remain more scarce and presumably more valuable. In addition to the 500 dynamic NFTs, LaMelo Ball Collectibles will release another 9,500 standard NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain.
"LaMelo will become the first athlete to mint his career on the blockchain," says Sher Chaudhary, co-founder of Playground, the Southern California-based NFT design studio working with Ball. "We're launching a world where each NFT carries 'level up' capabilities based on off-chain events."