What Are NFTs? NBA Top Shot and 6 Blockchain Projects to Watch

NFTs can be hard to navigate, but these projects are worth a look.

Over the last few years, investors have looked toward the security of hard assets as vehicles to build their wealth. Artwork, whiskey and, more recently, sneakers have all evolved from collectibles to investments, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars. At the same time, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have started to gain widespread acceptance by retail investors and corporations alike, fueling the growth of blockchain-powered technology. The combination of these factors has produced a unique bit of technology that has taken the investing world by storm: non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. Non-fungible, meaning non-transferable, refers to the one-of-a-kind nature of the assets being traded — when you purchase an NFT using a cryptocurrency like Ethereum, you’re getting a digital, blockchain-backed certificate of authenticity. You can purchase NFTs on a variety of platforms and exchanges, but which should you use? These six NFT projects are leading this fast-growing market.

Top Shot

Perhaps the best-known NFT marketplace at the moment, Top Shot was launched by the NBA in July 2019 in partnership with Dapper Labs as a way for basketball fans to claim ownership of their favorite NBA highlights. Buyers can purchase packs of random in-game clips in various amounts and varying rarities, or they can use the Top Shot marketplace to buy and sell highlights with other users. The genius of the Top Shot marketplace is that it capitalizes on the long history of sports fans’ love of collectibles — from trading cards to jerseys to sneakers, and now blockchain-backed clips of a favorite player or team. And fans are all too happy to pay: Top Shop buyers have spent more than $200 million, according to the website, and the biggest purchase thus far has been a clip of a Lebron James dunk that sold for around $200,000 in February.


Non-fungible tokens may feel like they’re the latest and greatest thing to happen in the crypto world, but in fact, NFTs have been around for years. So has OpenSea, for that matter — the platform is the oldest NFT marketplace on the web, designed to be a clearinghouse for all things NFT, ranging from digital collectibles to an album from Kings of Leon. The openness of the platform is not only a point of pride for OpenSea, but it has also fueled the marketplace’s growth over the years and helped to make OpenSea the “largest marketplace for digital goods” by items available. A decentralized marketplace using decentralized cryptocurrency, OpenSea’s first-mover status and expansive size make it one of the first places new NFT traders should look as they enter the market.


Twitter (ticker: TWTR) has been trying to find new ways for users to monetize their content. This includes acquiring newsletter publishing platform Substack’s competitor Revue, as well as incorporating “Super Follows” and the ability to tip people on the site. Another new avenue for revenue may be through NFTs, and none other than Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is leading the charge by putting his very first tweet up for sale on Valuables by Cent. Valuables is an NFT marketplace for tweets, allowing users to sell their tweets to the highest bidder — and in the case of Dorsey’s tweet, bidding is quite high indeed, reaching $2.5 million. Not all Twitter users will see their posts reach such lofty valuations, but the platform has potential, as social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook (FB) seek out ways to monetize their vast pools of users.


Non-fungible tokens have evolved and modernized since their origins in 2017, but the original NFT is still as popular as ever. Developed by Larva Labs, CryptoPunks are 24-by-24 pixelated images of colorful, randomly generated punks, zombies and gorillas, of which only 10,000 were ever made. These 10,000 CryptoPunk characters were freely available for anyone with an Ethereum wallet and were quickly gobbled up by buyers, who then created a thriving secondary market as they traded “punks” back and forth. It may seem silly, but there’s nothing funny about the cash behind CryptoPunks: the average sale price of a Punk in the last 12 months is more than $20,800, and one CryptoPunk image sold for $2 million in February. With $142 million in lifetime sales on the site, CryptoPunks is still the NFT space of choice for many buyers, and it continues to remain popular even as new contenders arrive on the scene.


One of the most popular NFT vehicles on the internet is art, and Hashmasks is among the largest NFT art projects around. Developed by Suum Cuique Labs, Hashmasks are a collection of 16,384 unique digital portraits of various humanoids with six interchangeable features, often filled with hidden messages. Portrait sales began on Jan. 28, 2021, and the earlier you bought one, the cheaper it was, as the system was built on a sliding scale of prices. What really sets Hashmasks apart are its Name Changing Tokens, or NCTs, which allow whoever buys a Hashmask to name it, creating art pieces “for the people, by the people.” Naming each piece allows buyers to become collaborators with the artist, while adding another layer of rarity and collectibility to the piece. While Hashmasks themselves may eventually wane in popularity, the systems below the surface powering this popular NFT are brilliant, and they might just set the standard for how NFT art is traded.


As technology like virtual reality advances, the real world is slowly beginning to blend with the digital world, leading many to believe that the “metaverse” is the next step in consumer technology. Enter Decentraland, a blockchain platform where users can purchase virtual “land” that they then own, building whatever they want upon it. As with real estate in the real world, location is everything, with plots of land closer to heavily trafficked areas selling for far more than plots out in the middle of nowhere. Virtual avatars wander Decentraland visiting areas like Vegas City, the entertainment district where users can spend their hard-earned cryptocurrency at virtual casinos powered by companies like Atari. The metaverse is getting closer than you think, and it might just look a lot like Decentraland.

Six NFT projects to watch:

— Top Shot

— OpenSea

— Valuables

— CryptoPunks

— Hashmasks

— Decentraland

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What Are NFTs? NBA Top Shot and 6 Blockchain Projects to Watch originally appeared on usnews.com

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