LeBron James is the latest star athlete to team up with a cryptocurrency company. The Los Angeles Lakers star is joining with Crypto.com to teach children about blockchain technology and what is being called “Web3.”
Under the partnership, Crypto.com will work with James’ foundation to offer educational and workforce development opportunities around the emerging technologies, including in inner-city neighborhoods.
“Blockchain technology is revolutionizing our economy, sports and entertainment, the art world, and how we engage with one another,” James said in a statement.
Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, allowing users to transact business securely using a decentralized digital ledger. Web3 is the buzzy term given to a range of online services and mobile apps built on the blockchain, including cryptos and non-fungible tokens. It also gets tossed around in discussing the even buzzier metaverse, the network of virtual and augmented reality domains that people like Meta (formerly Facebook) founder Mark Zuckerberg envision as the successor to the mobile web.
Crypto.com, which launched only in 2016, has moved fast to stake a claim in the brave new world of decentralized finance, or “DeFi.” The Singapore-based company lets users trade cryptocurrencies and NFTs — the unique digital certificates that confer ownership over art, video and other digital collectibles. And Crypto.com is sparing no expense to promote its brand, hiring Hollywood star Matt Damon for an ad campaign and paying $700 million to rename the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where James plays for the Lakers, now officially called Crypto.com Arena.
One thing youngsters may learn through James’ efforts: Platforms like Crypto.com regularly get knocked off by thieves. The company said last week that cybercriminals had breached its security systems and made off with more than $30 million in stolen bitcoin and ethereum.
For a raft of professional athletes and celebrities, the lesson may be that the current fascination with blockchain is a ticket to getting paid millions for intangible possessions. In 2021, for example, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady launched an NFT service dubbed Autograph that will help top figures from the sports, entertainment and fashion worlds develop their own tokens.
The NFT market is forecast to grow to $75 billion by 2025, from about $14 billion today, with much of the growth driven by the boom in sports NFT products, according to investment bank Jefferies.
But what is equally true, as James suggests, is that the emergence of these technologies is creating job opportunities. Career sites like Indeed and LinkedIn already list jobs related to blockchain, cryptocurrency and NFTs, while prestigious educational institutions such as the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania now offer certificates in blockchain and digital assets.
James suggests that learning about blockchain and Web3 will help close the so-called digital divide separating more affluent people from those in lower-income areas. Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults with annual household incomes of less than $30,000 a year say they don’t own a smartphone, while tens of millions of children lack access to high-speed internet service, according to the Pew Research Center.
“I want to ensure that communities like the one I come from are not left behind,” James said.
Alain Sherter covers business and economic affairs for CBSNews.com.
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