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College Basketball Star Luka Garza Becomes Latest Athlete to Sell an NFT

Trevor Brown Jr | NCAA Photos | Getty Images
  • University of Iowa senior Luka Garza is auctioning off an NFT, he announced Tuesday on CNBC.
  • The buyer of Garza's NFT will also get signed shoes and a chance to spend time with the college basketball star.
  • Garza told CNBC he sees the digital collectibles as an example of how NCAA athletes could benefit from their name, image and likeness.

Luka Garza, who was named the best player in men's college basketball for the just-concluded season, is auctioning off an NFT.

The 6-foot-11 University of Iowa senior, who made the announcement Tuesday on CNBC's "Power Lunch," becomes the latest athlete to venture into the increasingly popular world of digital collectibles. Football stars Patrick Mahomes and Rob Gronkowski unveiled their NFTs last month.

The auction for Garza's NFT begins Tuesday night and lasts until Friday afternoon on the crypto marketplace OpenSea.

An NFT, or nonfungible token, is a digital asset that is unique by design. Ownership of an NFT is recorded on a blockchain network, one of the distributed digital ledgers that underpin cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Items that have recently been minted as NFTs include rock albums, the first-ever tweet and pieces of digital art.

NBA highlights have also been a popular type of crypto collectible.

In addition to ownership of the digital token, which features multiple pictures of Garza, the highest bidder on his NFT will get autographed shoes from the game where he set the program record for most points in a career.

The NFT buyer also will be able to play a game of HORSE against Garza, as well as go to dinner and a meditation session with him. He said he leaned on meditation during his accomplished Iowa career.

"I think that was something cool for ... whoever were to win the NFT, to be able to see what gets me locked in, what gets me to be able to succeed at the highest level," Garza said, suggesting the experiential aspect of his digital collectible sets it apart from being just another "image or piece of art."

Portions of the sale will be donated to the University of Iowa's Stead Family Children's Hospital, so "it's for a good cause, as well," Garza said.

Garza's announcement comes not long after his four-season college career reached its conclusion in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It means he's now free to accept compensation related to his athletic success without violating NCAA rules and jeopardizing eligibility.

There's been a considerable push in recent years to allow NCAA athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness, known as NIL. The NCAA delayed a vote on compensation rules earlier this year. However, a few states have already passed their own NIL legislation, and some proposals have been introduced at the federal level.

The U.S. Supreme Court also recently heard a case regarding education-related compensation for NCAA athletes.

Garza, an economics major, said he was grateful for the NCAA and the opportunity to have a scholarship to pursue basketball and education concurrently. Nevertheless, he complimented those who are pushing for expanding NIL rights, such as his Iowa teammate Jordan Bohannon.

"I stand with the changing times, and I think ... this is something that could pave the way maybe for college athletes in the future to be able to do this and make money off their name, image and likeness through something like an NFT," Garza told CNBC.

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