Nba’s Ben Simmons Shifts Spotlight to NFTS, Esports

NBA All-Star Ben Simmons has diverted the spotlight away from the basketball court and onto the blockchain. Simmons already counts himself as a part of the video gaming community and has cemented his legacy by joining the ranks of Perion, an NFT-fueled eSports team.

According to the project's whitepaper, this team uses its influence to buy in-game assets, like NFTs. It leases them out to talented players who otherwise lack the resources to compete and earn “supernormal returns.” Simmons, a guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, joins as an ambassador and strategic advisor to the Perion DAO, the decentralized version of a company or LLC in more traditional circles.

Simmons has played video games all his life, starting with games like PlayStation's Resistance, followed by Call of Duty and Fortnite. However, he prefers the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' (PUBG) series over building things. Now he's jumping into the blockchain-based gaming fray with Perion, a play-to-earn crypto project betting that NFTs and the metaverse are the future of gaming.

In the Perion announcement, Simmons touts the project's role in “getting more people involved” in gaming and “unleashing the competitive spirit of gamers all over the world.” Some NBA fans called him out for not displaying that competitive spirit for the 76ers (more on that below). Nevertheless, Simmons is looking to help shape the “future of play-to-earn” with Perion. The Perion DAO has an ambitious mission to improve “living conditions in the developing world.” They set out to train gamers to help them “earn exceptional remuneration” in the play-to-earn segment of the metaverse.

Simmons seems like a natural fit for Perion, given his presence in both the NFT and gaming universes.


Personal Foul

Simmons is in the crypto gaming limelight even as he finds himself in the crosshairs of controversy. NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal may be retired from the game, but he is still making his voice heard as an analyst for “Inside the NBA” on TNT. Most recently, Shaq has taken aim at Simmons for not appearing on the court this season. Simmons has been on the sidelines and has yet to play a game in the 2021/22 season. He has reportedly blamed “mental health issues,” but Shaq isn't buying it. The drama unfolds after 76ers Coach Doc Rivers was put on the spot about Simmons. As an analyst, it's Shaq's job these days to be critical. He even points out that he has been the subject of criticism in the past despite being one of the greatest players of all time.

It seems Simmons has two choices. He could either use the criticism as an opportunity to get back in the game or wait to be traded.

Not All Fun and Games

As crypto and NFTs reach wider-scale adoption, market participants may soon find they've got a target on their backs. A Bloomberg report reveals that the IRS claims that digital assets and NFTs are wrought with “mountains and mountains of fraud.” They suggest celebrities are asking to be probed like a pincushion by associating themselves with the market.

Last year, the IRS captured $3.5 billion in cryptocurrencies used in nefarious activities. Meanwhile, regulators hammer away at dozens of cases tied to potential crypto-related crimes. The NFT space has garnered the attention of regulators as these digital tokens continue to fetch prices in the million-dollar range, not all of which are worth that much, regulators say. The worry is that these funds will fall into the wrong hands and be used in illegal activities like drug trafficking and money laundering. IRS special agent Ryan Korner bemoaned crypto influencers who can move prices by tweeting without regard to investor protection.

Regulators have yet to provide a clear regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and NFTs alike. As long as regulators choose to nurture and not stifle innovation, many crypto startup founders and institutional investors alike would welcome guardrails to know the parameters in which they can operate. The Biden administration is preparing an executive action on the industry, apparently as “a matter of national security,” that is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, with the bitcoin price in the doldrums, NFTs, gaming, and the metaverse remain exciting ways for market enthusiasts to stay engaged with this market. This attitude does not appear set to change anytime soon by the looks of things.

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Featured Image Credit: Alex Subers