It’s all over the NBA. How long until players get paid in crypto?

Ten years ago, it was clothing lines. More recently it was wine. But the Burgundies and Bordeaux are two years ago.

The off-court obsessions of generously paid NBA players often follow popular trends. But the last cannot be drunk, nor sewn. Hell, you can’t even touch it, and its skeptics describe it as a scam.

That obviously hasn’t stopped cryptocurrency – the nebulous term for the various digital currencies, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, which are an increasingly popular investment for the wealthy and would-be-rich – from becoming the cool new thing to through the Association. That is, if they haven’t already become an investor or registered to be an endorser.

“It’s definitely getting more popular,” says two-time All-Star Trae Young. “Older guys are starting to talk to us younger guys about how to manage our money. It’s a nice subject.

But as the crypto’s mainstream appeal continues to grow and its foray into NBA circles becomes more visible as the months go by – with superstar arenas, teams and players announcing sponsorship deals left and right – this begs a curious question: Will there ever come a day when NBA players avoid the good old US greenback and choose to be paid directly in crypto?

Such a scenario may seem absurd now, and there is no indication that players are about to start demanding payment in digital currencies. But as companies like and FTX have spent astronomical sums renaming arenas in Los Angeles and Miami, legends like LeBron James and Steph Curry have signed on as endorsers, and an ever-growing list notable names around the league are getting into some form of crypto, is that so far-fetched?

A parcel, of course, must change before NBA players no longer prefer to be paid exclusively in non-dollar terms. But if you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run, there is evidence that the evolution towards one day contracts paid in crypto has begun.

“Just like the game has evolved and changed when you talk on the field, people, the world is constantly evolving, changing,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler says. “Is it possible? Absolutely. Will it happen? I don’t know.”

The six-time All-Star is one of the most prominent names in the league to embrace crypto. Butler recently partnered with Binance, a company that describes itself as operating the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange. In an ad that launched the partnership last month, Butler poked fun at those who blindly jump on the crypto bandwagon because celebrities have endorsed it. “Trust yourself and do your own research,” he tells his more than 802,000 Twitter followers. Butler, one of the most curious players in the NBA, did his. He started by asking his former teammate Andre Iguodala.

“The dude is a genius in more ways than one,” Butler says. “Obviously basketball talent, yeah. All in all, good guy. Great dad. But it’s like if you have questions about crypto or what to invest in, it’s who you pick up the phone and talk to.

Iguodala, who declined to be interviewed for this article, is well known for his ties to Silicon Valley and business acumen, so it makes perfect sense for Butler to contact him for information. In January, Iguodala announced that he was partnering with an investment app to convert part of his 2021-22 salary into Bitcoin, the most popular and well-known cryptocurrency of the roughly 10,000 available.

“Is it possible? Absolutely. Will it happen? I don’t know.” —Jimmy Butler

But the player who may have the first bona fide crypto is Spencer Dinwiddie. The Mavericks guard has been one of the biggest supporters of crypto in the NBA, since 2017, when he first publicly embraced alternative currencies. He has consistently spoken openly about the benefits of crypto and even made headlines in 2019 when he asked the Nets to convert his contract into a secure digital investment. Dinwiddie wanted to sell tokens against his pact, essentially allowing investors to bet on whether he would win more or less on his next deal. The pros and cons of this are an entirely different and complicated subject, so we won’t go into detail. Just know that the league quickly turned down Dinwiddie’s proposal. But the episode lit up crypto in a big way in NBA circles. Two years later, more and more players are learning the ins and outs, often from each other.

“Everyone trades thoughts and ideas for each other,” Butler says. “I think that’s what the majority of conversations are, just getting information about anything that’s going on, because there’s always someone who’s really locked into something who can learn anything at all. ‘anyone. So even though crypto is becoming a big thing, I think conversations around crypto are for everyone to learn what everyone in the league knows.

Even though many NBA players make more money than most Americans can imagine, you don’t have to be a genius to understand the appeal of crypto to them. As financial literacy and security became increasingly important topics for the league and the players, many became savvy investors and famous businessmen, including James and Curry. With crypto, an investor can achieve short-term returns that blow up traditional stocks or real estate. Crypto is easily accessible and anonymous. More and more places accept it as a means of payment. Plus, there’s the cachet of being one of the cool kids and adopting it early on.

“I’ve definitely talked to myself about it,” Young says. “I have tricks in certain things. I continue to learn. I will get more involved. »

For those who are skeptical of crypto, fearing it’s a financial fad that could very easily run out, Joe Pompliano says there’s no need to worry of his disappearance overnight. The founder of Huddle Up, a newsletter which covers the business side of the sport, points out that crypto is a multi-trillion dollar industry. As an asset class, it’s not going anywhere. “The NBA or any of these teams don’t think it’s going to go away in two to three years,” Pompliano says. Otherwise, he points out, they wouldn’t be making deals.

The biggest downside to crypto, of course, is its volatility. Values ​​fluctuate wildly from week to week and day to day. You can win big or lose big. Skeptics will point to its lack of security, as cryptocurrencies are not backed by any government or central bank – transactions cannot be reversed, making them scam-prone. If you’re considering investing in crypto, you really need to do your homework because there are thousands and thousands of digital currencies out there, many of which were created to solve very specific problems. And if you’re an environmentalist, you know how harmful crypto mining is to the planet.

Pros and cons aside, there is a very fundamental reason why no NBA player can be paid – nor will they be in the near future – in crypto. It’s against the rules.

“If you look at the ABC, it specifically states that you must be paid by check or direct deposit,” says Pompliano. “They’re literally not allowed to do that right now.”

Image via Getty/Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE

Article IV of the NBA ABCratified in 2017, states: “[A] The team may pay a player under their uniform player contract in cash via a check made payable to the player or via direct deposit made to the player’s bank account. Compensation of any other nature is prohibited. And regarding Dinwiddie’s bizarre request three years ago, the ABC says: “No player shall assign or transfer to a third party his right to receive compensation from the team under his player contract. uniform.”

For crypto to become a viable compensation option, the league and the players must accept a change. The ABC does not expire until after the 2023-24 season, although it is possible to opt out this summer. Nobody expects that to happen and, quite frankly, it’s even harder to imagine compensation regulations changing for two very big reasons.

For starters, the Players Association, the union representing NBA players, should sense that the majority of its members want a cryptocurrency payment option and offer it up for negotiation. Such an option would make sense for the highest earners in the NBA, who have cash to spend and could easily withstand the volatility of crypto. But what about all the players who earn far less than the league average — according to Basketball-Reference, it’s $5.8 million this season — and can’t be as cavalier as top earners? ?

“When you think about it, there are a lot more gamers making at least $45 million a year. You have to do what’s in the best interest of all gamers,” says Pompliano, the founder of Huddle Up. You’re a union. You work for everybody. It all depends on how many guys are asking for this. If it’s three or four guys asking for this and it’s a sticking point with the league, and they say, “You’re going to have to give us something back,” I doubt that will happen.

The other thing holding players back from getting paid in crypto anytime soon is the base economy.

“When teams earn more revenue in crypto than in fiat. That’s the only time it makes sense,” Mark Cuban told Complex Sports via email. fiat and let the player just buy crypto.”

The Mavericks owner, who is also one of the stars of the popular entrepreneurial show shark tank, not talking about compact Italian cars. He is talking about the dollar, because fiat is a government-issued currency that is not backed by a physical commodity, like gold. Fans and corporations don’t pay for everything that makes the NBA tick – tickets, concessions, sponsorships, media rights, etc. – other than for the youngest for the foreseeable future. And there is no desire for a team to incur the additional staff costs it would cost to distribute crypto to its employees.

So for now, and at least for the next few seasons, NBA players will just have to settle for the status quo, even as crypto excitement continues to rise in the league. A crypto clearing option seems a bit too far ahead of the curve when it comes time to trade the next CBA. But in 10 years? Or 20? The NBA could be full of crypto bros clamoring for an alternative to traditional check or direct deposit.

“I never say never,” Butler says. “Why not?”

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