NFTs are not something that I really understand. Sure, at a baseline level I get the idea of owning something unique with its own serial code that no one else can lay claim to. But there has to be more to it than that, right?
The short answer is yes, and the long answer was explained to me numerous times inside David Copperfield’s old mansion in Las Vegas at an exclusive party celebrating the launch of the world’s first three-dimensional NFT. Introduced to the world by Moments (a new NFT platform tied to A5 Labs) and created by one of professional poker’s all-time greats, Phil Ivey, the Shoe Surgeon, and SneakerCon, it is the first multiversal NFT.
Bidding for the one-of-a-kind project began in the former living room of the iconic magician at 9 p.m. PST on Oct. 28, and carried over onto Moments’ auction site. Bidding is currently still open, but only for a limited time—it’s slated to end tonight at midnight EST.
The auction’s highest bidder will win three separate prizes, the first being a video that commemorates an infamous heads-up moment between Ivey and poker player Tom Dwan. What makes the idea of this video unique is the fact that Dwan pulled off what many poker enthusiasts consider to be the greatest bluff in the history of poker, forcing Ivey to fold the winning hand with over $675,000 in the pot.
“Phil Ivey is very picky when he does any NFTs,” says Meysam Moradpour, CEO of Moments. “And everyone knows him as the Tiger Woods of poker. We told Phil, ‘Show your vulnerable side this time, make it public, you cannot always win. So what if we commemorate a bluff where you actually lost?’ This was the first time he was comfortable enough to do something like this.”
What does all of this have to do with sneakers? Well, the winner will receive one of two custom sneakers designed and built from scratch by the Shoe Surgeon, Dominic Ciambrone (with the other going to Ivey) inspired by the infamous bluff. The shoe can be worn in both real life as well as the metaverse, marking Ciambrone’s first custom design for the digital world.
Premium leather adorns the paneling of the custom in a colorway that pays homage to the Full Tilt button-up shirt Ivey wore during Season 6 of High Stakes Poker. Ivey’s hand, an ace and six of diamonds can be seen on the underside of the right tongue, while Dwan’s nine, eight of spades is on the left.
“Phil was very hands-on with the design,” Ciambrone says. “We matched the shirt, the details of the cards behind the tongues. Once I showed him the sneakers, he was really thrilled, it was dope.”
As the metaverse and the landscape of the NFT universe has grown, Ciambrone has been asked to lend his aesthetic numerous times. He finally felt that the right opportunity presented itself to step into this world and work on such a high-profile project with someone as important to the city of Las Vegas as the likes of Phil Ivey.
In addition to the custom physical and digital shoes––and this is where the whole NFT world really starts to become more than meets the eye––the winner of the auction will be flown to Las Vegas with all expenses paid for a luxury trip that includes a seat at a high-stakes cash poker game with Ivey. Avid believers in the metaverse and the world of cryptocurrency see NFTs as a doorway into experiences like that one, or a party at David Copperfield’s mansion.
Not only are they a key into these events, but Moradpour truly believes that five years from now people will throw on their virtual reality goggles and live out lives in the metaverse that they can’t in the physical world. People will create avatars that can be skinny, tall, Black, white, whatever you want. And in a case like this NFT, they can own a virtual sneaker that no one else in the world has. He believes it to be no different than you or me owning an exclusive pair of sneakers that not everyone can get their hands on.
This isn’t the first time that we have seen crossover between sneakers and the metaverse and it will most certainly not be the last. In the early stages of the virtual world, we have seen sneaker industry stalwarts the likes of Franalations and Bobby Hundreds throw “.eth” to the end of their Twitter profiles (in reference to their ethereum wallets), while the former even has a Bored Ape as his profile picture. On an episode of the Complex Sneakers Podcast, the Hundreds co-founder went into detail about his involvement in this world, as well as in the trading card space.
Any time there is something to be collected, you are going to see and hear about it in the sneaker community. At the end of the day, the desires of building a collection are all the same, whether it’s a $200 piece of wearable leather and rubber, a Pokémon card, a basketball card, or a virtual PDF of an ape with pink hair and a Hawaiian shirt—everyone just wants to get their hands on something that no one else has.
“Sneakers are a physical form of trading and many other things,” Ciambrone says. “It’s like what’s that next thing? It’s already happening in the sneaker world and that’s why the crossover is so easy. It’s cool to see that people are doing something different and unique. That’s how you grow, you do things that are uncomfortable and scary.”
Beyond industry people getting involved, it was recently reported by trademark attorney Josh Gerben that Nike filed trademark applications for “NIKE,” “JUST DO IT,” and the Swoosh logo with indications that they are making a push for the metaverse to sell virtual sneakers and apparel. If Nike entering the metaverse doesn’t convince you that it’s infiltrated the world of sneakers, then I’m not certain that anything will.
Now again, I want to make it clear that I am the furthest thing from an NFT expert. I went into this trip basically only knowing what I overheard my buddies say while we played Call of Duty: Warzone. It’s been a little less than a week since the party, and I certainly feel like I have a better grasp of what NFTs are now and why they are so valuable to people. Beyond the collectible aspect, they are virtual tickets to some of the world’s most exclusive events. Outside of the media, the stakeholders in creating this moment, Marshawn Lynch, and a few others, every person at that party was granted access by way of their virtual wallets.
Whether you are a believer in this world or not, or you are just as confused by it as I am, my one piece of advice would be to educate yourself little by little, because it certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And a few years from now, maybe we’ll be taking as many Ls in the metaverse as we do every week on the SNKRS app.