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By Jacob Feldman
Sports Business Reporter
Over 1,000 NBA legends could soon be headed to the blockchain. 
The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) recently signed a multiyear group licensing deal with athlete-focused NFT platform ARIA Exchange, with the first set of digital collectibles expected this summer. That first release will feature the likes of Clyde Drexler, Grant Hill, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Jerry West and Dominique Wilkins.
“As the demand for legends and their one-of-a-kind collectibles skyrockets, this partnership with ARIA Exchange allows us to bring our legends into a new and innovative marketplace, where they can serve as connoisseurs and creators of their narrative,” NBRPA president and CEO Scott Rochelle said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with ARIA Exchange to celebrate our Legends’ accomplishments and iconic moments, and provide exclusive and artistic value to fans and collectors around the world.” 

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ARIA is leaning into the nostalgia factor in many of its first releases, as it has also teased collectibles featuring Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron. Active athlete partners include Max Scherzer and Jayson Tatum.
I’m excited to announce that I signed an exclusive partnership with the @theARIAExchange. Launching this Summer, the #ARIAExchange is an innovative, #Web3 platform where sports fans become curators by unlocking rare collectible NFTs and untold stories from their favorite players.
— grant hill (@realgranthill33) June 20, 2022

“We are redefining the landscape of the NFT community, uniting everyone from the crypto enthusiast to the crypto-curious sports fanatic, gamer and collectible-connoisseur under one roof,” ARIA Exchange founder and co-CEO Darren Mann said in a statement earlier this month. “With narrative-based original content, utility and interoperability, ARIA Exchange will empower collectors of all levels to seamlessly buy, sell and trade the world’s most coveted NFTs, as well as empower athletes to serve as the creator and storyteller of their one-of-a-kind collectibles for the first time.”
NFT values have dropped precipitously along with cryptocurrency prices in recent weeks, with total sales volume falling as much as 75% month-over-month. Sports NFTs have been affected too, with NBA Top Shot on pace for its lowest sales volume month since before the platform exploded in January 2021, according to Cryptoslam! data. 
However, sports NFTs have proven to be more resilient than some of their more eccentric siblings. Over the last week, Sorare, Top Shot and NFL All Day are ranked within the top 25 NFT projects in overall sales, with Panini not far behind.
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