There has been a lot of convergence between the NBA and the NFT industry. Earlier this year, the NBA Top Shot helped propel NFTs into the mainstream, and some teams even have their own NFT programs. But not every high-profile NFT project is a hit with collectors, as NBA player John Wall just found out.
The Houston Rockets player has been quick to embrace the NFT, tweeting that he’s “jumping on the NFT bandwagon” before announcing his own ethereum-based NFT profile picture project on Tuesday. The project is called Baby Ballers, and its first teaser image shows a cartoon-style illustration of a baby spinning a ball around with its fingers and standing on a 3D basketball court.
But there were one or two hiccups early on, and Wall was criticized for them. Most notably, the initial NFT teaser image was found to repurpose a screenshot from Epic Games’ popular video game Fortnite, which social media sleuths quickly picked up on. Additionally, the illustration appears to have been strongly inspired by the character designs in the Boss Baby franchise.
NFT works like a deed of ownership for rare digital items, including images and video clips, and Baby Ballers is similar in approach to many NFT profile image projects. The project will place 4,000 images that can be cast and purchased, in addition to a charity component where $100,000 will be donated to undesignated causes. Wall said he himself will be personally involved in the rewards and benefits for NFT owners.
In one tweet, Twitter user SudoShoe tweeted a series of screenshots showing comparisons to Fortnite and Bossman assets and wrote: “A celebrity trying to start the NFT money grab”. Other users joined in, deeming it “disgusting and disrespectful” to other artists and web3 builders, or asking, “You think you can hide in here?”
This morning, in an announcement on the Baby Ballers Discord server, an admin wrote that the final, cast NFT will not use Fortnite’s background. The team claims that it “contacted Epic Games” and was told that since the NFT project will not eventually sell the teased images, it “falls under their fan art policy.”
Instead, the team plans to hire new artists and designers. Additionally, moderators have been suppressing critical and derisive posts, warning new users against spreading “FUD” – a common cryptocurrency industry term for “fear, uncertainty and distrust.” In other words, anything perceived to be negative about the project is off-limits.
“Please understand that we have no plans for this to be the typical celebrity ‘money grab’ that sometimes occurs in the community,” the team wrote in the announcement post.” We have a lot planned for our NFT holders, including in-person fan experiences, valuable merchandise, and lots of post-launch partnerships and giveaways.”
Wall has since deleted his tweet and shared a new one with a Baby Ballers illustration on a plain white background. The launch is currently scheduled for September 30, and according to the host, “everything will be addressed on a Discord community call with Wall tonight.”