(Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images)

When Coinbase became the official crypto platform of the WNBA last October, most teams and athletes had a lot to learn about the company’s products and services. Coinbase partnered with the WNBA Players Association to provide draft invitees with financial training and open accounts for all 144 players in an effort to bring crypto to the fingertips of women and fans across the country.

For Jewell Loyd, the landscape wasn’t new. The Seattle Storm guard and four-time WNBA All-Star has been active in the crypto economy for years.

“Investments in other things like real estate along with crypto is something I’ve been doing since around 2013 with my brother,” Loyd said.

Loyd is not your typical 28-year-old investor. While growing up in Illinois, Loyd learned about the stock market from her grandfather and other mentors, and she received a crash course on the economy through a program at her middle school.

“They taught us how to apply for jobs, how to pay taxes, what taxes are. You even had to pay for your desk. Everything you would have to pay for in real life, you had to pay for in school,” she recalled.

“They were teaching us how to save money. You could pick up two or three jobs, just to see how real-life works. At the end of the year, you would say ‘How come I only have 20 bucks? How come this person had a dollar? How come this person has $500?’ They basically broke things down, what it means to make a dollar and how to invest.”

At Niles West High School, where Loyd scored over 3,000 points as a four-year starter on the basketball team, she also took investment classes. She and a partner would be tasked with checking the market online, trading stocks and explaining their investment choices to the class.

“It was engraved in us in school,” she said.

So, when Coinbase signed on as a partner of the WNBA in 2021, Loyd jumped at the opportunity to be an ambassador and take part of her salary in crypto.

While Loyd is at the forefront of using her platform to set an example in crypto investing, fans may be yearning to learn more about the service from more of their favorite WNBA superstars.

A peer-to-peer financial system, crypto allows individuals to exchange funds directly through the internet, loosening many of the restrictions of traditional finance and banking systems. Now you can buy, sell, trade and stake your assets with just a few clicks.

Loyd, who plays both overseas and in the U.S. like many WNBA players, is a fan of the financial freedom crypto offers her.

“If I go into a bank, I want to open an account, and there’s all this paperwork and stuff to do. And then if you take this specific money out, you get fined. What? It’s my money,” Loyd said. “Now, I go on Coinbase, I get my money out. It shouldn’t be that complicated to get your money. You have so many loopholes with certain banks. In my mind, that doesn’t make sense.

“It’s freedom, understanding and probably a little bit of love. I feel I get all three of those things using crypto.”

Loyd feels fortunate that she had a background in investing when she entered the WNBA in 2015 as Seattle’s first overall draft pick. She remembers sitting through a meeting on draft day, when a league rep walked the players through their retirement funds but didn’t spend much time teaching them how to invest.

She’s sensed a different mentality in the year since the WNBA partnered with Coinbase, as more players take initiative with their long-term financial strategy. Loyd’s former Storm teammate, Sue Bird, has been one of the leading voices of other products and services crypto has to offer. Through Coinbase, investors can not only buy and sell cryptocurrencies, but they can also exchange NFTs and store crypto in their own personal wallets, among other things.

“I think with this last year,” Loyd said, “people are trying to learn and understand this since this is the way things are going and people don’t want to be passed by.”

“We think the future of money is here with crypto,” said Jessica Williams, Coinbase’s Director of Brand Partnerships & Experiential. “Coinbase will continue to focus on our suite of products and platform, which are all tools that currently over 100M people use daily to buy, sell and manage crypto.”

Loyd has found confidence in crypto through experience. She’s hopeful that even more WNBA players will get there, too, now that the league and teams like Seattle are offering educational programs and tools to participate.

“As you’re investing, you’re also learning,” she said. “Being educated in what you’re investing in helps a lot and I want to see more, whether it’s the rookies coming in and getting a quick Coinbase lesson from the start. As rookies, we only learned about the investments of retirement.”

In recent months, the rapid rise of cryptocurrency has led to economic volatility and skepticism among the public. Loyd doesn’t see this as an issue, but rather a chance for her to help usher in a new financial tool and leave a permanent mark on the global market.

“I think a lot of people, especially women, are nervous about it. They don’t know what it is,” Loyd said. “For me, I’ve gone into meetings and people ask, ‘Oh, you know about crypto?’ Yeah, I’m a woman and an athlete and I know about crypto. It’s a cool thing for women to understand what it is, to sit in these seats in sports leagues and have another edge to them. Not just, ‘I’m here because they put me here,’ but ‘I can talk the language and know what’s going on.’”

For Loyd, whose own financial background is rooted in family and community, crypto is about more than monetary gains. It’s also a source of equality and other values she believes in at her core.

“Coinbase is meant for everybody. It’s hard to find something in the world that’s for everybody,” Loyd said. “Having the ability to teach this, to help people understand this, you are educating them, but also giving them something they can use for the rest of their lives. That’s impactful to me. This world isn’t equal, but this allows money, understanding and finances to be equal.”

Daniel Newton is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports.