Basketball star turned digital racehorse tycoon: Wilson Chandler on NFTs and the NBA

A journey that started with trading shitcoins has currently become a growing passion for NFTs — part of a wider wave of NBA players and cultural tastemakers taking on the blockchain space.

As Wilson Chandler tells it, despite being a NBA star with a decade-plus professional career and nearly $80 million in career earnings, the 6'8 band forward still got his begin in blockchain constant method various enthusiasts do: commercialism shitcoins.

Chandler told Cointelegraph that he 1st detected regarding crypto from some “kids” he compete Fortnite with in 2017. once growing fascinated by their stories of turning paltry sums into legitimate holdings, he eventually invited one intent on his Chicago home for a crash-course on fitting wallets and exploitation exchanges.

From there, the record is all on-chain: per a glance at his Etherscan address, his early investment strategy was very little over spray-and-pray.

“From there I bought coins — Bitcoin, ETH, Stellar — bunch of shit simply being silly, learning. Lost a bunch of coins doing silly stuff like pump and dump corporations, not knowing any higher.”

Like several degens-in-development, he relied on a network of friends for data. As he recounted on a recent episode of NFT collector podcast Club high Shot, he had one crazy friend speak him into a stratagem based mostly out of Amsterdam — a scam that value him a major Bitcoin position. The friend? The late, legendary rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle.

“I think about that shit all the time,” he said, laughing.

However, he told Cointelegraph that those early stumbles have now paved a path to what may well end up being a second act for the former star.

Second acts and sneaker deals

As a cager, Chandler’s resume is stellar. For years he may well be relied on for robust 13–5–2 stat lines, primarily enjoying for aggressive capital of Colorado groups that doubly created the playoffs — including associate incomparable nice flower child team within the “Knuggets,” the gathering of Nuggets and Knicks players assembled within the wake of the Carmelo Anthony trade.

However, signs inform towards the top of Chandler’s enjoying days. he is been on 3 groups the past 3 years, opted out of the “bubble” playoffs last year, and last vie for the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions — a stop in China which will usually signal a final hurrah for a professional player. whereas he is same in interviews that he had offers on the table from NBA groups, together with competition contenders this year, he’s ultimately trying towards retirement.

If a number of his recent investments area unit any indication, crypto and NFT grouping might play a significant role in no matter comes next for the previous star. additionally to gap a medical marijuana clinic, he is beginning to become a savvy NFT collector and is functioning to mat himself into the space.

Last month he disclosed that he had become a proud CryptoPunk owner, dynamical his avatar to at least one of the enormously high-ticket collections of pixels. it absolutely was a surreal moment for several old NFT collectors, and a supply of validation for those aficionados who control out hope for thought adoption within the thick of an ugly bear market.

Just a few weeks later, he announced a neat, possibly first-ever “digital shoe deal” in collaboration with NFT company CryptoKickers. Basketball stars inking shoe deals with major brands is nothing new, but CryptoKickers designs one-of-one streetwear-inspired shoes for virtual worlds like Cryptovoxels and The Sandbox — a use case that major fashion and apparel brands have long had their eye on. For the time being, Chandler now has the best virtual ‘gear’ of any NBA player in the Metaverse.

Currently, however, his true passion is Zed Run. The Polygon-based collectible horse racing and breeding game has attracted significant attention due to rising popularity and the eye-watering sums rare, ‘genesis’ breed horses can fetch for collectors and racers. For Chandler, the social and educational elements are what drew him in.

Helping him learn the ropes are some high-powered, largely unnamed whales who he’s met through chatrooms and networking. Like many traders and collectors, he’s discovered that private communities are an ideal way to corner ‘alpha,’ and he’s even gotten in on some fractionalized ownership deals for rare horses — including a horse stable agreement with one “Jake,” who works with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s venture capital outfit.

“I’m in some incredible private group chats with some major players and they’re so giving with information and tips. Definitely makes it easier for me to open and have that confidence to ask the simple/dumb questions i need in order for me to learn. So I’m grateful for those guys. They’ve definitely embraced me with open arms in this short period of time.”

It’s a kind of elation that many investors feel in the midst of their first or second bullrun — the realization that, once you’ve learned the ropes, there’s a sprawling, thrilling, and potentially profitable frontier to explore:

Clout and culture

Chandler isn’t the only basketball star dabbling in NFTs. In recent weeks, younger players like Josh Hart, Tyrese Haliburton, and reigning Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball have started collections, with LaMelo in particular flourishing under the tutelage of collector-whale Pranksy.

Ball is now an illustrious shitposter on the Bored Ape Yacht Club Discord server with hundreds of messages laughing at memes and talking digital bonsais.

The NBA/NFT takeover shouldn’t be a surprise, given the success of NBA Top Shot. The Dapper Labs product, which turns basketball highlights into collectible “moments,” has been a smash hit, selling thousands of highlights and propelling Dapper to a valuation upwards of $7.5 million.

Chandler believes that it might be the start of a trend — NBA players, after all, have a long history of serving as tastemakers and arbiters of what is hip. And in NFTs, they now have a rapidly evolving technological and cultural movement that in some ways reflects the nature of the modern game, which is increasingly defined by absurd athleticism and pace.

“The NBA has always been more progressive than most leagues my opinion,” said Chandler. “And it’s fast paced, non stop action — especially the way the game is played now. You don’t get that anywhere else. Guys are much more athletic than before, guys’ ranges are crazyand guys are just so beautifully skilled nowadays. So I can see why fans and players gravitate towards NFTs. It’s fun and exciting, and they’re making money off this stuff.”

The range of participation in the space from players is broad. Chandler notes that, aside from collecting NFTs, plenty of players have made angel investments into blockchain companies, including early plays in Dapper and Coinbase. He thinks eventually the NBA itself will come to experiment with the technology, calling it a “no brainer for them.”

However, it’s still the early days of NFTs. He points to former Brooklyn Nets teammate as a “pioneer in the NBA when it comes to blockchain in general,” as Dinwiddies’ effort to tokenize a portion of his contract forced the league to “sit up and take notice.”

This trailblazing effort from Dinwiddie was just two years ago, and yet both the tech and adoption seem to have sprinted forward since — a sign that NFTs are just getting started with their push mainstream, says Chandler.

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