NBA Blockchain Billionaires: Cuban, Tsai and Leonsis to Lead Owners Study Group

The NBA has created a blockchain advisory committee comprised of a number of its billionaire owners, including Mark Cuban and Joe Tsai, according to multiple people familiar with the plans.

The other members of the Blockchain Advisory Subcommittee, as the NBA has dubbed it, are Ted Leonsis, Steve Pagliuca, Vivek Ranadive and Ryan Sweeney, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the matter is private. The group’s mandate is to explore ways to integrate blockchain across the league’s business.

The NBA declined to comment.

The move comes amid the exploding popularity of NBA Top Shot, digital collectibles that are being sold by league licensing partner Dapper Labs on its Flow blockchain. More than 200,000 people entered a recent Top Shot release, and the resale marketplace has seen more than $300 million in sales.

“It has very little to do with Top Shot,” Cuban said in an email. “It’s about blockchain applications, of which Flow is just one option.”

Some NBA teams are already accepting cryptocurrencies in their arenas, and blockchain-driven businesses in gaming, sports betting and digital art—all areas of interest for the league—are beginning to reach a more mainstream audience.

In addition, the NBA’s younger, tech-savvy fans overlap heavily with the social media movement that is driving interest in alternate forms of investing and blockchain-enabled transactions. That’s true for its players as well—Andre Iguodala, Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee are all Dapper Labs investors; as is Spencer Dinwiddie, an avid crypto-enthusiast who tried to tokenize his NBA contract in 2019. It’s unclear if a Top Shot equivalent for MLB or even the NFL would have had the same instant cultural impact.

Less public-facing, blockchain could also be used for myriad backend purposes, from data sharing, storage and security, to contracts and ticketing—any area in which it’s helpful to have a complete, digital ledger of ownership and transactions.

The six members of the committee are a logical group. Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, and Ranadive, who owns the Sacramento Kings, have been among the business community’s most public supporters of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Back in 2014, the Kings became the first major U.S. pro team to accept bitcoin, and four years later it was the first to establish a cryptocurrency mining program.

The Mavericks have been accepting Bitcoin for nearly two years and just announced that they would also accept Dogecoin, a nearly valueless meme token that was created as a joke in 2013 but has a cult following.

Tsai, who owns the Brooklyn Nets, is co-founder and executive vice chairman of Chinese tech giant Alibaba, while Leonsis, who owns the Washington Wizards, was an early investor in Dapper Labs through aXiomatic. Pagliuca, co-owner of the Boston Celtics, is co-chairman of investing giant Bain Capital, and Sweeney, a minority owner of the Utah Jazz and the youngest member of the committee, is a venture capitalist focused on tech and computing.

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