Global sports apparel company Puma is continuing its foray into Web3 with a sneaker-based collaboration with NBA star LaMelo Ball and the NFT project Gutter Cat Gang.
Titled “GutterMelo MB.03,” the limited-edition kicks will initially be sold for $175 via the OpenSea marketplace as an NFT collectible on June 29. The NFT can later be redeemed for the physical sneakers during a month-long window from July 18 through August 20. A Puma representative told Decrypt that the total number of NFTs has yet to be announced.
Ball, a young star in the NBA who was drafted third overall in the 2020 draft and is a point guard for the Charlotte Hornets, penned a multi-year endorsement deal with Puma in 2020 for a reported $100 million. The MB.03 sneaker marks the third iteration of his sneaker line with Puma, with further editions expected for release later in the year.
RARE 🛸💕 pic.twitter.com/z7HiXWjpPL
— Gutter Cat Gang (@GutterCatGang) June 3, 2023
Gutter Gang Cat is an NFT profile picture (PFP) project launched in June 2021 that features 3,000 cat-themed avatars. The Puma sneaker is customized with a colorful effect that looks like a heat map, along with a Gutter Cat Gang image and “1-of-1” inscription on the tongue plus the names of the collaborators on the heel.
In the 2022-23 season, Ball made history as the second-youngest player in the NBA to accumulate 1,000 points, assists, and rebounds—only behind LeBron James, the four-time NBA champion who currently leads the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ball entered the NFT space in June 2021 with the launch of Ethereum-based LaMelo Collectibles—floating figurine models of himself in outer space with on-chain ownership benefits included—and followed up with a second collection in February 2022.
James, a consecutive all-star across all 19 years of his NBA career to date, has also ventured into the NFT scene. He was spotted wearing exclusive RTFKT sneakers in May, and was also gifted his own CloneX avatar from the same firm. Nike acquired digital sneaker startup RTFKT in December 2021.
The concept of redeeming digital NFTs for physical merchandise was popularized by RTFKT. Holders of CloneX avatar have also had the opportunity to “forge” physical items representative of the clothing traits of their asset.
Nike remains the dominant brand in the basketball sneaker market, leading in popularity with some 67% of NBA players wearing its shoes during the 2023 season—a figure which climbs to nearly 75% when Nike’s Jordan Brand is also included.
According to the same data, Puma came in fourth behind Adidas and the Jordan brand with nearly 3% of NBA player share—but the brand may be gaining cultural prominence in the sport following the endorsement signatures of both Ball and the Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton.