Sixers fans take sports memorabilia collecting next level

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Last year, Matt Polis and Russ Bertino invited 50 people in their NBA Top Shot group to Roy-Pitz Brewery on Spring Garden Street. They were there to watch an NBA game with a special invited guest from the Sixers.

When the 6-foot-7 forward got out of the limousine, the group was thrilled. Georges Niang cordially greeted the group, as Matt and Russ wore smiles as wide as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What was the big deal, and what were they celebrating?

Polis grew up in Cheltenham and now lives in South Philly. Bertino is from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Both are Sixers fans and captains of an NBA Top Shot group known as Trust the Moment. Georges Niang was invited to their party as a way to get the local Top Shot group excited about being part of a digital collectible community that loves the Sixers.

Top Shot, a company owned by Dapper Labs, has partnered with the NBA and NFL to make digital collectible sports cards available to fans around the world. According to the Dapper Labs website, Top Shot has grown to have 1.5 million users and accounted for over $1 billion in transactions. 

Polis believes that Top Shot is here to stay and that it is changing the landscape of sports collectibles. “There’s an aspect of collecting where I can say I own three of Tyrese Maxey’s rookie (digital) cards; his debut moment,” Polis explains.  

Whereas collecting cardboard sports cards has been around for decades, this new wave of digital highlights offers a new experience. For example, Polis enjoys the reminiscing aspect of a digital sports card where fans just don’t have a still photo to look at but an actual sports moment of their favorite player doing something spectacular.

Growing up in the 1990s and watching his hometown team with his dad, Polis admits, “I love the Sixers, and I love different ways to express that. But I also love technology.” 

Bertino describes himself as a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan, but he had not heard of NBA Top Shot until someone told him about the NFT (non-fungible token) platform one day. Once he did his research, he was drawn to the investing aspect of it, viewing NBA Top Shot digital cards as “sports stocks”. He says, “I was fresh off of Ebay, buying cardboard cards and getting them graded. That was my biggest hobby at the time.”

In friendly banter, Bertino and Polis compare legendary Top Shot moments. Bertino proudly describes his recent purchase of a James Harden digital moment. Later, Polis chimes in with his purchase of a Tyrese Maxey digital moment. 

Although Bertino has become enamored with Top Shot, he still collects cardboard sports cards. The transition between tangible card collecting and digital collecting was not a difficult transition. “It was just easy for me to hop in and start collecting.”

Their Trust the Moment group hosted another unique event last year. Polis and Bertino welcomed Fox Sports reporter and author, Yaron Weitzman, to have a Q & A session with the TTM group. They listened as Weitzman described how he wrote his book, Tanking to the Top, which describes critical moments during Sam Hinkie’s tenure as Sixers general manager. 

Polis recalls, “It was really cool to hear the things he learned. It was a unique sports experience to talk to this guy who just wrote an in-depth piece about something we were obsessed with, being the Process.” 

The two TTM captains love the collecting aspect, but it is the community they helped build that brings even more joy. They’ve brought many unique Sixers fans together and even meet at Xfinity Live to watch games. This Saturday, they’re attending the Sixers vs. Celtics game at the Wells Fargo Center.

Although Polis understands the stigma that comes with NFTs after the crypto market crash, he still has faith in the hobby of digital sports card collecting. To curb skepticism, he described how Flow, the blockchain that hosts the sports cards, has partnered with Ticketmaster. The event ticket giant offers event organizers a chance to issue NFTs to purchasers, along with other perks like VIP passes, personalized memorabilia, and loyalty rewards. 

Polis explains in regards to transparency, “With Top Shot, you show ownership. You even have your own profile.” On the platform, every digital card has a serial number, making them unique as part of a finite set. At any time, you can see who owns what cards and when they were transacted on the blockchain.

As for the future of Top Shot, Bertino envisions growth within the digital sports collectible community. He declares that 30 NBA franchises already have Top Shot groups like TTM in Philadelphia. Polis sees growth but at a slower pace.

One thing is for sure, with highlights from Mac McClung’s dunk contest victory in Utah last weekend, Top Shot should capitalize on his phenomenal performance and offer those digital moments to fans across the globe.

Will TTM invite McClung to their next Top Shot event? Now, that would be the ultimate slam dunk for Matt and Russ as they help get the word out about the newest form of sports collecting.