The NBA Playoffs have now reached the penultimate chapter in basketball drama - the conference finals. In the Western Conference Finals, we have the Dallas Mavericks vs. the Golden State Warriors. In the Eastern Conference Finals, we have the Boston Celtics vs. the Miami Heat. Whichever teams win their respective matchups will move on to the NBA Finals and compete for championship glory. And beyond crowning the eventual winning team, there's another story worth highlighting--two exceptional young players who represent the future of the NBA. Luka Doncic of the Mavericks and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics.
Luka Donçic is a 23 year old from Slovenia who many consider to be one of the most talented young players in the NBA. He was drafted to the Mavericks in 2018 and won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Ever since his arrival in the NBA, Luka has received significant hype that has translated into high prices for his collectibles. In 2021, a Luka Donçic 2018-2019 Panini National Treasures rookie card sold for $4.6 Million, making it one of the most expensive basketball cards in history. Considering the trajectory of Luka's career, that rookie card could potentially increase in value as he progresses within the NBA. On the NFT collectible game NBA Top Shot, an NFT of Luka Doncic sold for $95,000 in April 2021.
Later this year, Jordan Brand will be releasing the first pair of Luka 1s, his signature shoe. Luka signed a five year deal with Jordan Brand when he was only 20 years old, cementing his massive cultural relevance and the industry's grand expectations for the Slovenian. Beyond the hype around Luka, he has delivered with results on the court. And while the Mavericks are definitely the underdogs against the Warriors, this is the furthest the Dallas team has gone in the playoffs since Luka's arrival in 2018. If Luka can help pull an upset against the Golden State Warriors, it's likely that the market for all of his physical and digital collectibles will move up.
Jayson Tatum is 24 years old and comes from St. Louis, Missouri. His career has parallels with Luka but comparatively, Jayson has received much less hype. And that has translated into the prices of his physical and digital collectibles. The most expensive recorded Jayson Tatum rookie card was sold for $15,000 in January 2021. Similar rookie cards are currently being listed on eBay for $90,000. On NBA Top Shot, the most expensive Tatum NFT was sold for $50,000 in February 2021. Jayson Tatum also has a shoe deal with Jordan Brand that should be coming out this year.
If either Luka or Jayson are able to progress to the NBA Finals and potentially win the entire championship, there should be an increased demand for their sneakers, cards, and NFTs. The last time the Mavericks won the NBA Championship was 2011 and the last time the Celtics won was in 2008. The hopes of Boston and Dallas are placed primarily on the shoulders of these two young players.
When people spend large amounts of money on trading cards of young players, they are expecting a return on their investment. One might argue that since the 'basket' of Jayson Tatum collectibles is at a lower price than Luka Doncic, there is more upside for Jayson Tatum collectors if he progresses further in the finals. On the flipside, one could also argue that since Luka is the recipient of more hype, Luka's achievements will cause greater increases in demand for his collectibles. There are many points to consider for investors or collectors making decisions about these basketball players. It's a formula of both art and science.
Another disclaimer - this is not financial advice. The value of an athlete's collectibles is a mixture of their results in the game and also other factors like their cultural relevance. People looking to invest in Luka Doncic or Jayson Tatum should consider whether they believe in these players over the long term. For now, Luka Doncic (age 23) and Jayson Tatum (age 24) represent a new generation when facing off against the Golden State Warrior's Steph Curry (age 34) and the Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler (age 32). For many investors and collectors, they are betting on the potential they see in the players they are following. No matter what happens this year during the NBA Playoffs, we will likely be talking about Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum for many years to come.