Trading cards are out and virtual highlight moments are in — at least when it comes to professional basketball here in the United States.

Recently, the NBA and its players association have gotten into a licensing agreement with Dapper Labs, a company known as the creator of a game called CryptoKitties, but is now surely going to be known as the company that helped elevate the virtual highlight market space with a new form of trading cards with its website, NBA Top Shot.

Matthew Narvaiz

Matthew Narvaiz

The website, nbatopshot.com, is an online market for highlights of NBA players that people pay for. Sure, you can watch a highlight on YouTube free of charge, but with NBA Top Shot customers have the chance to stack up a series of highlights that, like trading cards, may be worth tons of money in the near future.

Much like trading cards, these virtual highlights include statistics of the player in the game of the moment captured. They also include a serial number, which then lets the buyer of the highlight figure out just how many of that same highlight is out there. NBA Drop Shot even has levels for a said moment — listing them as common, rare, legendary and, eventually, ultimate. They also sell some of those moments in packs, which usually consist of a few different highlights — some rare, some common — that resemble in many ways a pack of trading cards. You might not know what you get or how valuable it is until you open it up.

I first heard about NBA Top Shot last week on my way to work while listening to an ESPN Daily podcast. Pablo Torre, the podcast host, brought on Brian Windhorst, an NBA writer for ESPN, to talk about his latest story. Windhorst, for about 30 minutes, explained how NBA Top Shot works and how, in the last couple months, it has picked up steam and doesn’t look to be slowing down.

That seems to be true. According to a story in Bleacher Report last week, NBA Top Shot is doing millions of dollars in transactions daily. Earlier this month, the site being as popular as it is, crashed when Holo Icon packs costing $999 were released.

In Windhorst’s story for ESPN, he opens with a young man who purchased a rare moment of Zion Williamson’s first NBA block for $100,000. Looking at the NBA Top Shot website this week, that moment he purchased for six figures is now going for $250,000 from one of the 49 collectors of that rare moment. So far, of those 49 highlight blocks, one has sold for $55,000 to another buyer on the site.

The website has been so wildly popular lately that even the smallest, cheapest packs sell out in a matter of seconds. One look at the marketplace on NBA Top Shot shows just how big this new form of trading cards, albeit virtually, has become.

Common cards, which usually have thousands of the same moments for one highlight, go from anywhere as cheap as singles of dollars to nearly $10,000.

A highlight of Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic dishing out an assist to Willie Cauley-Stein for an alley oop — originally part of the Cool Cats collection, which is common — is selling for a low of $8,800 as of Monday, Feb. 22, and a high of $250,000. The pack itself, which includes this highlight from Doncic, has more than 3,000 in circulation. The moment itself has become a rare buy considering the high price point.

Some of the most valuable listings, though, are all legendary highlights, according to the price points on the site. That’s due to just how rare they are.

That Zion Williamson block that was purchased for $100,000 is a legendary card, and many on the site go for as low as thousands and as high as hundreds of thousands.

A Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk from Christmas of last year falls under the legendary category, with only 85 of those moments made available to the public. Currently, 11 users on NBA Top Shot are selling this highlight, with a low asking price of $14,775 and a high of $100,000.

As a journalist who doesn’t make nearly enough money to spend thousands on a virtual highlight, it piqued my interest of course. The main reason being that when I was younger I was an avid collector of baseball cards, which I still have shoe boxes full of. Being able to say you own a moment carries that same feel of owning a trading card but in the most 2021 way possible.

I haven’t purchased any moments yet, but it most likely will happen in the coming days, weeks or months. Maybe this will be my new hobby — and maybe this will be my golden ticket to a lavish vacation in Cancun, where I possibly might come across Ted Cruz.

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