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Brooklyn Nets Player Would Be First In NBA To Create Digital Currency Investment

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You can invest in stocks, bonds, real estate and now athletes - or at least an athlete.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SPENCER DINWIDDIE: My name is Spencer Dinwiddie. Some of you may know me as the mayor, the guy that drew his own shoes or the guy that almost got kicked out of the league trying to do some fun stuff with his contract.

CORNISH: Spencer Dinwiddie, a rising star playing point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, hopes to reinvent the way athletes and fans earn money. He's turning his three-year, $34 million contract with the Nets into an investment platform through which he'll sell 90 tokens, or shares, to investors. To sweeten the deal for these investors, Dinwiddie says if he's voted into the All-Star Game lineup, for instance, he plans to bring eight investors along with him next month to Chicago. The 26-year-old was negotiating with the NBA for months to make this happen.

Shams Charania of The Athletic has been reporting on the story since September. He joins us now from Chicago. Welcome to the program.

SHAMS CHARANIA: Audie, great joining you. I appreciate the time.

CORNISH: How did he come up with this idea?

CHARANIA: So Spencer Dinwiddie was a guy that was going to go to Harvard, and he ends up going to Colorado to play basketball. But he's always had his mind and his interest into finances and, really, cryptocurrency. And that's really where his fascination with bitcoin started - really, a year or two ago.

And he began progressing over the summer on an idea to turn his Nets contract, which he signed a three-year, $34 million contract extension - but turned that into an investment platform for fans and allow people to invest in him, essentially as a stock and investment bond, something that's been unseen for a pro athlete. No one has taken their own contract and their own salary and turned it into investment and stock platform.

CORNISH: Not just anyone can invest, right? You have to be, like, an accredited investor, have 150,000 to start. And let's say you meet that criteria. Are you effectively buying shares of his contract?

CHARANIA: Exactly. And it's - this is why Spencer Dinwiddie believes his platform is amazing for investors - because you see the rises and the falls in different stock markets, different bonds. But his is a very secured, safe platform, in his opinion, because his contract is known. It's a public - it's public information.

CORNISH: It's interesting that he's coming up with this idea right in a moment where, like, college sports, for example, is grappling with the idea of players being able to capitalize on whatever fame they have. Do you get the sense this is part of a broader movement of players trying to, I guess, have control, in some way - more control over their financial futures?

CHARANIA: Yeah, player empowerment definitely has a lot to do with this and also, in Dinwiddie's mind, player and fan engagement. It's engaging the fans as far as whoever's investing is investing in him. You know, he believes that if this was for every player and it became tied to player options, it increases the player's ability and desire to want to play night in, night out. So maybe get rid of the rest days, the load management.

CORNISH: You've spoken a lot with Dinwiddie. Can you talk about anything that surprised you - what he's like or his interest in this area?

CHARANIA: You know, if Spencer wasn't playing basketball, he would be, you know, a scholar somewhere. He'd be, you know, running some bitcoin firm or - you know, he's got such a passion for the cryptocurrency, for bitcoin, for pushing the envelope in his expression of the idea where he's not leaving it up to lawyers; he's not leaving it up to people that are so-called experts. He believes he is an expert on this.

CORNISH: That's Shams Charania of The Athletic. He's been reporting on the story of Spencer Dinwiddie. Thanks so much for talking with us.

CHARANIA: Appreciate you guys. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ST. VINCENT SONG, "DIGITAL WITNESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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