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The WNBA has officially entered the wide world of cryptocurrency. The league joined forces with Coinbase in October, making the company the league’s exclusive cryptocurrency platform partner.
As part of the partnership, all 144 members of the WNBA Players’ Association will receive Coinbase accounts and crypto funds to become more familiar with the space. The partnership also features educational sessions on crypto and NFTs for the players.
The WNBA is no stranger to the marketplace, having partnered with Top Shot last summer to release NFTs featuring the league’s top moments and players. In May, the New York Liberty became the first team in WNBA history to launch an NFT with their digital nail art series.
The league and its teams aren’t the only ones getting in on the action, either. Here are five WNBA players who have taken advantage of the crypto and NFT marketplace.
A longtime student of financial investing, Loyd has been active in the cryptocurrency market since 2013. So, when the WNBA and Coinbase teamed up ahead of this season, the Seattle Storm star was eager to become a brand ambassador for the company.
“Coming into the league, I was steps ahead of most people ahead because I was lucky to have a good background,” Loyd recently told Just Women’s Sports. “I understood the fundamentals and had a good foundation. The moment I got into the league and got my first check, it was let’s invest this. Let’s save this, put it somewhere and strategize.”
Loyd announced the partnership officially on Instagram in May, posting a piece of digital art by artist Yasmin Shima with the caption: “It’s time to secure the W in crypto. I’m proud to be a part of team Coinbase.”
In addition to her personal investments, Loyd has long been a vocal supporter of the crypto economy. The four-time All-Star was a part of Front Office Sports’ Learning Crypto in Sports Essentials course, where she discussed athletes’ connections with and adoption of cryptocurrency in the sports industry.
Through the league’s partnership with Coinbase, the 28-year-old is hopeful that her fellow WNBA players will learn about all of the financial opportunities the crypto market has to offer.
“It’s finally a language everyone can speak,” Loyd said. “It’s something you can teach anybody who has access to this. Not everyone can go to a bank and get a credit line. It’s easier for somebody to open a Coinbase account and start using it that day.”
Seattle Storm veteran Sue Bird was one of the first WNBA players to develop her own digital art, headlining a group of athletes represented by the Wasserman sports agency. “The Collective Series,” a collection of non-fungible token trading cards, was released in May 2021 to Zora, a crypto collectibles marketplace.
Los Angeles-based artist Lauren Nipper brought the trading card renderings to life.
“Typically, athletes are bound by union and league restrictions, so the nature of NFTs in allowing women athletes, in this instance, to have full autonomy and agency over their own name and likeness in the crypto realm is a really unique opportunity,” Circe Wallace, Wasserman’s EVP of action and Olympic sports, said ahead of the release.
“The Collective Series” also included NFTs from USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, X Games skateboarder and gold medalist Mariah Duran, Paralympian Scout Bassett and several other WNBA athletes.
In May, ahead of her final season in the WNBA, Bird also became a brand ambassador for Coinbase. Announcing the partnership on social media, she wrote, “Here’s to the new era for women in crypto.” As a part of her deal, Bird will develop NFTs that will be available on Coinbase NFT.
The four-time champion has helped spearhead the WNBA’s crypto movement before she officially walks away from the game at the end of this season, her 19th in the league.
New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu has been at the forefront of culture, business and basketball since making her WNBA debut in 2020. So, it’s no surprise that Ionescu has been one of the first WNBA athletes to get involved in the NFT marketplace.
In May, the 24-year-old joined forces with Autograph, an NFT platform co-founded by NFL legend Tom Brady, for the “The Future is…” Collection. The series features Ionescu and four other young athletes who are changing their sport: Devin Booker, Coco Gauff, Justin Herbert and Collin Morikawa.
“I’m so excited to be a part of the next era of digital collecting and the Web3 world alongside so many other amazing athletes,” Ionescu said in a press release. “I want to make sure the next generation knows that there’s a place for them in Web3, and Autograph is helping to pave the way.”
Ionescu selected Los Angeles-based illustrator and designer Kelly Malka as her collection artist for the NFT series.
“I was so honored to hear that Sabrina Ionescu picked me! I really admire her and her work ethic, she’s really paving the way for the new generation of young female athletes, and I’m excited to be a small part of her journey,” Malka said.
Elena Delle Donne of the Washington to Mystics is also on the cutting edge of NFTs, partnering with the popular SODA: Society of Degenerate Apes in January. The WNBA star has two unique SODAs made in her image, adding to an NFT she already owns from the collection.
“So excited to officially have my own 1/1 (Derivative Apes) loved the first one I bought but this just takes it over the top,” Delle Donne tweeted as part of the announcement earlier this year.
Delle Donne has gotten involved in the crypto space as well. She and her wife, Amanda, share a Coinbase Wallet in an effort to learn as much as they can about the wide world of Web3 before diving in headfirst.
As Aari McDonald led Arizona to the NCAA championship game in 2021, her national profile and WNBA Draft stock soared, culminating in the Atlanta Dream selecting her with the No. 3 pick in that year’s draft. Like Collier, McDonald’s draft night is commemorated with an NFT as part of Wasserman’s collection.
“To go top 3 in the draft and hear my name called was a dream come true. All of my hard work and sacrifice paid off and I am glad that so many of my loved ones got to be in the moment with me,” reads McDonald’s NFT, emblazoned with neon accents.
All three WNBA players in the collection opted for an auction sale, according to Queen Ballers Club. A year after the initial release, Bird’s highest bid is roughly equivalent to $300, Charli Collier’s is close to $100, and McDonald’s is near $35, with the platform allowing users to trade and resell their digital art.
Clare Brennan is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.
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