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One Shining Moment: How The Sports Memorabilia Industry Has Grown With The Rise Of NBA Top Shot And Trading Cards

Basketball trading cards are displayed at the NBA exhibition in Beijing on August 19, 2019.
Basketball trading cards are displayed at the NBA exhibition in Beijing on August 19, 2019.

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It was in the late 19th century that sports trading cards became a thing, being these neat paper collectibles you got with a pack of gum or tobacco. Despite these rarities likely being worth a fortune nowadays, it seems hard to believe that most folks back then knew how popular these cards would later become. But, it’s a piece of paper with an athlete and short biography attached to it—how valuable could it actually be?

Despite reservations some people may have held, it eventually became widely understood that sports trading cards held value, whether it be sentimental or monetary. Nowadays there has been a new sports memorabilia item that has jumped in popularity in a similar fashion—NBA Top Shot. The online company, which has been backed by the NBA, has built a blockchain service that allows people to buy virtual packs containing “moments” that can be kept and sold in their site’s marketplace. NBA Top Shot’s growth has become meteoric since it first started in 2019, having processed more than $250 million in sales in February alone. This all the while sports trading cards are growing in interest once again and selling for similar exorbitant prices.

Today on AirTalk, we discuss the rise and appeal of NBA Top Shot while also looking at the resurgence of sports trading cards. Are you a collector of sports trading cards or of NBA Top Shots’s moments? What got you into collecting? Join the conversation by calling us at 866-893-5722.


DeMarco Williams, senior writer at SLAM Magazine; he tweets @demarcowill

Michael Provenzale, production manager for Heritage Auction, a multinational auction house that collects memorabilia and other valuable objects