Yes, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert has NFTs now
Sports teams and leagues around the country have started to embrace NFTs, and now the Utah Jazz players are set to blaze a new trail as the first group of players to release their own line of NFTs. A total of 12 Jazz players, making up almost the entire team, are featured as superheroes in the new Jazz Heroes NFT series, set to release later this spring.
The idea came from Utah’s three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. On the court, the 2021-2022 season has perhaps been Gobert’s best statistical year since coming into the NBA in 2013. He led the NBA in rebounds and posted career-highs in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage. Off the court, he’s taken a significant interest in blockchain technology and NFTs, which have grown significantly in the last six months.
“I’ve been really drawn to the blockchain and cryptocurrencies and all these new technologies that I think can really change our world,” Gobert says.
From that interest spawned the idea for Jazz Heroes, which Gobert says he hopes will connect the Jazz even more to fans in addition to some “really cool art” featured on each NFT. Gobert’s Jazz Heroes depiction features a drawing of Gobert with two katanas in tow, while other superhero depictions include all-star Donovan Mitchell with a spider logo on the front of his superhero costume referencing his “Spida” nickname, along with other Jazz fan favorites clad in superhero gear such as Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and more.
The project originated around the trade deadline, project co-founder and Gobert’s longtime friend Frederic Marionnaud says, so not every player on the Jazz roster is represented, with players like Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Juancho Hernangomez acquired by the Jazz in February, too late to make it into the initial NFT drop. There are discussions ongoing about how to feature all those players in future releases, Marionnaud says.
The drawings were done by TACT Studio, a Madrid-based artist duo formed by Alvaro del Coso and Thomas Touron. There will be a total of 6,900 NFTs released, and each of the 12 players featured will have 575 versions of himself in NFT form with over 1,650 different traits. The pre-sale and public release for the Ethereum-based NFTs are set for the end of April or early May as the Jazz battle to advance in the NBA playoffs.
All proceeds from NFT sales will benefit Gobert’s charity, Rudy’s Kids, and funds will be used to benefit charitable projects collectively selected by the team’s players.
Here’s how it will work: The NFTs will come with certain utilities or benefits provided to the holder of an NFT. These utilities could include potential video calls with players, meet and greets, tickets to Utah Jazz games and the 2023 NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, away game experiences, and signed items.
What benefits each holder receives will be based on their NFT’s rarity level. There are five rarity levels: bronze, silver, gold, diamond, and legendary. There will be one price for all NFTs, and which level someone receives will be fully randomized. The price of each NFT hasn’t been publicly revealed yet. In order to get as many fans involved as possible, there will be a maximum of three Jazz Heroes NFTs per virtual wallet at the time of the first release.
This isn’t the first NFT release related to the NBA. In October of 2020, NBA Top Shot launched to early fanfare, with highlights of the iconic plays featured as NFTs that were sold in packs, as traditional NBA trading cards would be. The NBA Top Shot website boasts 600,000 Top Shot owners as of writing.
The NBA also released 18,000 NFTs for its “The Association” series in mid-April, just as the playoffs got into full swing. The Jazz as a team have released two phases of its NFT series, the first of which launched in September and gave buyers access to a virtual reality locker room experience with Jazz Owner Ryan Smith.
What makes this project different is that it’s a player-led initiative. No team or league logos will be used, just each participating player’s likeness.
“I haven’t seen any other sports or players do this as a team,” Gobert says. “Being the first group of players to do this and all the good that comes with it, I just thought it was a really good idea to connect through some really cool art, and making sure that all the holders get some real-life utilities was really something that I thought was important.”
After this initial release, there are plans for different versions of the NFTs, gladiators, samurais, and classic American comic book heroes style drawings, among others. In July, Jazz Heroes is also planning to begin development of a Jazz Heroes video game in partnership with Gen3 and 135, a Utah-based crypto company. There’s also more in the works that the team isn’t quite ready to talk about yet.
“Everything Rudy Gobert does is long-term,” Marionnaud says. “There’s no quick flip. He wants it to be a long-term collection and keep the community as entertained as possible. We’re already preparing great stuff that we won’t announce for now.”