What you’re about to read may shock you. Please keep in mind that the purpose of this article is to (1) highlight the power of the Blockchain, and (2) bring more equality and fairness to NBA Top Shot. There are two sides to every story, and these are simply my observations.
The Power of the Blockchain
For most collectors, Dapper Labs’ Flow Blockchain is merely a handful of buzzwords that you might read in an article describing how Top Shot works. Across day-to-day activities, from buying a pack to selling Moments, it’s easy to forget that Top Shot is built on the Blockchain - a technology that allows for the scarcity and ownership of Moments to be verifiable. Under the hood, however, any time a Moment changes hands (digital wallets), it’s documented in a public ledger. Sending a Moment as a gift may not leave a trace on the Top Shot website, but don’t you worry, it’s out there for the world to see.
As I was poring over the LeBron James Seeing Stars data, prepping for my next article, a certain account caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks: VegasDave.
While it’s beside the point of this article to verify if Top Shot user VegasDave is truly “Vegas Dave,” the famous sports handicapping tout with a history of sportsbook bans and lawsuits, what I found sure feels on-brand.
Thanks to tools such as LiveToken, we can see a Top Shot collector’s entire history (pack openings, gifts, purchases, sales, rewards) with a single click. Pulling up VegasDave’s account history, I was taken aback when I saw they had received 126 gifts from 12 accounts. Naturally, I dove deeper into the data to better understand how many Moments each of these accounts had gifted to our friend VegasDave. Eleven of the twelve accounts had sent over a handful of Moments - nothing to raise any red flags. The twelfth account, “GRAILED”, however, had sent over an eye-popping 93 Moments.
Taking a closer look at these 93 Moments sent from GRAILED to Vegas Dave, I noticed one thing in particular: the vast majority of them were Moments from the Seeing Stars set. All of the gifting occurred around March 29th, a time when these Moments ranged from about $150 to $600 each. GRAILED couldn’t have purchased these from the marketplace, right? To answer this question and dive even deeper, I pulled up GRAILED’s gifting history, and my jaw hit the floor.
55 different Top Shot accounts had gifted GRAILED a Seeing Stars Moment, ranging from one to two per account. To do some spot checking, I pulled these accounts up on LiveToken, and to no surprise, the account history was exactly as I expected: open a Seeing Stars pack, and immediately gift all of the Moments to GRAILED.
For nearly all of these accounts, they had no activity on Top Shot prior to the Seeing Stars pack drop in early March, and have had no activity since gifting their Moments to GRAILED.
Bad Actor vs Team Effort
While everything above suggested there could be some serious “multi-accounting” happening, I wanted to better understand the timeline over which this all played out. Could this simply be a massive group of friends all working together? To start, I plotted all of the gifts sent from these fifty five accounts to GRAILED over time.
It’s difficult to see, but each and every gift is represented by a thin vertical line. If this was fifty five independent users sending gifts to GRAILED, we’d expect sporadic gifting, but instead we see very concentrated bands. To double check, I zoomed-in to the second solid gifting band that occurred the morning of March 5th.
Over this short period, gifts were sent to GRAILED at a consistent pace, typically taking between 20 and 45 seconds between each subsequent gift. While we can’t be 100% certain, this could easily be a bad actor. This consistent time between gifts feels eerily similar to the time it takes to click “Send as Gift” and go through the Dapper authentication.
While it’s disheartening to stumble upon someone possibly abusing the Top Shot platform, there is certainly still some hope. Top Shot recently put a restriction on gifting, and perhaps this was the canary in the coal mine that tipped them off. It’s clear that Top Shot takes this issue seriously, and they’re actively investing in solving for it. Furthermore, by being built on the Blockchain, Data Scientists like me - with arguably too much time on their hands - can help identify issues and possible bad actors.
Is multi-accounting a wide spread issue, or was this an isolated incident? At this point, we don’t know.
That’s all for this week - I hope you enjoyed this bit of data journalism, and if you’re enjoying this content, the best way you can help out is by sharing with a friend.