You might have heard that pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America right now. Everyday there’s a viral clip of a new professional athlete dipping their toes into the sport. NBA superstar and savvy businessman LeBron James has become the latest professional athlete in the mix, as Major League Pickleball announced today that he’s now an owner of a team.
Johnnie Walker has joined forces with BlockBar.com and Vayner3 to elevate the fifth installment in the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare series, the “Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Dundas.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Johnnie Walker and the broader Diageo portfolio, as the company continues their journey in Web3, focusing on empowering creators and building exclusive community experiences that speak to their heritage, craftsmanship, and authenticity,” said Avery Akkineni, President of Vayner3. “The latest Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare x Ivona Tau collaborative launch on Blockbar.com will be an opportunity to deliver new and exciting experiences for both spirit collectors and the Web3 community.”
The newest addition to the Ghost and Rare series explores the character of exceptional and rare whiskies from one of world’s most famous Grain Whisky distilleries, the Glasgow “ghost” distillery of Port Dundas. To commemorate the fifth installment in the series and the first release from Johnnie Walker Master Blender Dr. Emma Walker, collectors can secure 1 of 75 limited edition Ghost and Rare Port Dundas Master Sets exclusively available on BlockBar.com.
To create the NFT, Johnnie Walker engaged award-winning generative AI artist and photographer, Ivona Tau, whose inspiration draws from the vital element and force of nature, water was transformed into a unique work of art. Each of the 75 NFTs will differ, making them as rare as the whisky itself. The Master Set also includes:
- A digital NFT by Ivona Tau with groundbreaking generative AI artwork;
- A redeemable Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Dundas bottle featuring the signature of Johnnie Walker Master Blender, Dr. Emma Walker;
- The digital twin NFT bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Dundas;
- Ghost and Rare token holders get a chance to receive early access to the next exclusive DIAGEO release on BlockBar.com;
- Exclusive access to an enlightening conversation between Johnnie Walker Master Blender Dr. Emma Walker and world-renowned digital artist Ivona Tau.
Honoring the trailblazing achievements made by Emma Walker and Ivona Tau, Johnnie Walker will help create more opportunities for women to achieve their goals by awarding business grants in collaboration with long-term partner IFundWomen.
IFundWomenis an ongoing partner in the Johnnie Walker ‘First Strides’ initiative, which aims to celebrate and enable people and organizationsmovingculture forward.
To stay updated on the drop, visit Block Bar’s official website.
We’re delighted Johnnie Walker has chosen to partner with BlockBar yet again for the launch of its Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Dundas. We’re democratizing access to the world’s most iconic whisky brand for everyone, anywhere in the world to participate.
For decades and decades, the sports fan experience has remained relatively the same. Millions of people tune into games, pay to watch in person, and follow along the 24/7 news channels to keep up with their favorite sports. The Swoops NFT project is hoping to change that and give the everyday sports fan a chance at ownership and the ability to make decisions with real consequences.
Swoops is an NFT basketball game that allows fans to own, trade, and collect digital assets that correspond to fictional basketball players. The eventual goal is for Swoops to become a legitimate sports league with media coverage of players, drafts, and events that rivals traditional sports.
By offering the everyday sports fan a chance to be an owner, general manager, or coach, roles reserved for a select few in traditional sports, Swoops is democratizing the basketball landscape.
ONE37pm sat down with Manish Sinha, the CEO and co-founder of Swoops, to learn more about the exciting project and the team behind it.
ONE37pm: What’s your background as a sports fan and when did you decide that you wanted to work in sports instead of exclusively being a fan?
Manish: So I grew up during the Shaq and Kobe era with the Los Angeles Lakers and that was really when I became a sports fan through and through. I caught the tail end of Michael Jordan’s [Chicago] Bulls career and played basketball casually as a kid and into adulthood. I’ve always been a big gamer too, playing NBA2K and other sports games like that.
What brought me into Swoops was the promise of ownership. With traditional video games, you turn it on, you move the player around and then you turn it off and that’s the extent of your relationship and interaction with the video game and I’ve always wondered, alongside my cofounder David, if there was a way to reimagine that so that’s what brought me to Swoops.
ONE37pm: If you had to give a quick 30-second pitch to your average NBA or NBA2k to try Swoops, what would be your main hitting points?
Manish: If you want to be a team owner or GM, usually you have to be a millionaire or billionaire. With Swoops we’re changing that, we’re democratizing that ownership so that anybody, including you, me, or anyone, could be such a person.
We’re doing that behind the technologies and the promise behind the blockchain and NFTs and making this new sport and new league of virtual basketball.
ONE37pm: To build on that a bit, sports are one of the biggest industries around the world, a multi-hundred billion dollar industry, but in traditional sports fans see little to none of that value end up back in their pocket.
How does Swoops use Web3 technology to change this and do you see this as the future of sports where fans get a bigger piece of the pie?
Manish: The hard truth here is that as a fan your ability to change the game is really limited. Usually, you can pick up a video game, you can watch it on TV, can gamble on it, or you can play fantasy sports. In each one of those cases, as you said Noah, your ability to capture the value generated from the game is very low and as a fan you’re never able to change the events that happen on the court, in the arena, and the promise behind Swoops, in fact, our mission, is to change that by making it possible for anybody to be a GM and an owner, and also to be a coach and have the ability to change what happens in the game.
To your question of how, one of the biggest innovations that has come out of crypto and the blockchain itself are NFTs. What that specifically means is the ability for a person to have unique ownership over a digital asset. What we’re doing is we are using and leveraging that technology to create fictional basketball players, fictional Swoops players, that are each NFTs and then minting them and releasing them to the wider world so that fans around the world can collect these NFTs and trade them and swap them and then enter them into cash prize contests which is what the Swoops app will be about.
ONE37pm: With Swoops, there are all these fictional players and that might be a challenge for traditional basketball fans coming over in getting to know these players but I know that there are big plans to build out a whole ecosystem around the different players like you would expect in traditional sports with media coverage and more.
Can you speak a bit about the next steps in building out the ecosystem as well as the grand plan?
Manish: We call this the “Swoopsverse” and it’s our take on what a virtual basketball league looks like. It starts with podcasters sharing strategies on how to win in the simulator. It starts with YouTube streamers releasing strategy guides on how to play on Swoops, which players are doing well, and which are suffering. It involves people commentating just like news commentators in the real world talking about our draft which will happen four times a year as each Swoops season is three calendar months.
If we can recapture all these moments that happen in the real world with the real NBA around strategy, new players coming in, who’s up and who’s down, and all that media coverage that happens already with the real league. If we can find ways to replicate that, I think we’re on the path to creating our own sport and our own league.
ONE37pm: How would you say that building in public has presented opportunities or challenges for Swoops thus far?
Manish: Building in public is our strategy to talk about what we’re doing and get the community involved in it. If you know anything about Web3, you know that everything is open source, in fact, all the code is on the blockchain through smart contracts. We really believe in that ethos and we try to follow it as much as we can.
Obviously, one explicit challenge is that we’re building a simulator that runs a 5 vs 5, 48-minute basketball game. Now that simulator necessarily must remain a closed-source black box because it’s what we’re challenging our users to figure out so there are some hard limitations as to how much we can share with the public.
What we’re doing a lot around and continually improving on is finding our cadence with our user base, releasing updates, and talking about changes that we’re working on or that will happen in the future. At the end of the day, these are material assets that in some cases will be worth thousands of dollars so it’s really important for us to be transparent with what we’re building, how we’re building it, and striking a balance with creating a game that’s got a black box, mystery component embedded inside of it.
ONE37pm: Can you expand on the daily SwoopsGM challenges that are offered right now and the similarities and differences that product has to the full Swoops product?
Manish: Totally, SwoopsGM is our warm-up to the real thing. SwoopsGM stands for Swoops general manager and if you’re into crypto it can also be Swoops good morning. It’s a small, fun game where we release a daily lineup of real NBA players and we challenge our fans and users to submit five players that they think can beat our set of five players.
There’s a strategy element here. The player pool is selected by us so you have to be creative in who you pick from that pool. There’s also a salary cap so each player has a price attached to them and your job as a user, and to play the game, is to find five under the salary cap that can beat the five that we put together.
If we do our job with SwoopsGM it becomes this wonderful top-of-funnel lead generator for Swoops itself. You have to remember that crypto and NFT games still occupy a niche within crypto-native and crypto-casual users. If we think of our user base as a concentric circle, that beginning one is that crowd, the crypto-natives, around that though are casual DFS players, people who play fantasy sports. If we do our job right with SwoopsGM, we’re going to reach some of those casuals and bring them into our world.
ONE37pm: Swoops is an exciting opportunity that shows the possibility of Web3 technology in the sports world. Why do you think sports and Web3 are such a good matchup together and what do you see are the opportunities for Web3 technology past Swoops in the sports world?
Manish: A big piece of Web3 is democratization so that everyone can become an owner and that lines up perfectly with our vision of democratizing sports ownership. It was perfect that the blockchain and NFTs, in particular, are exactly what we are leveraging to take our message forward. Beyond that, sports have always had a set of people who want to engage deeper with it. You see that with the success of DraftKings and FanDuel, people really want to engage with the game in a deeper way.
A big piece of crypto is also financial and the ability and hope to make money in a contest. We’re happy about that and we hope we can bring in people who want to engage with the game in a deeper way and make some money while doing it.
Swoops GM will be available to play on mobile and desktop at gm.playswoops.com
As we’re only days out from Green Street Festival, the 2-day weed celebration hosted by Gary Vee and Harry Mack, we felt it absolutely necessary to highlight one of the most reputable brands we spotted on the bill: CannaCraft.
We spoke to one of CannaCraft’s founding partners, Justin Capri, to learn more about the storied history of the cannabis maverick.
Started in 2014 by Dennis Hunter and Ned Fussell, CannaCraft is a leading innovator in the world of cannabis. With Dennis’ 30 years of growing experience at the time of the company’s formation, CannaCraft has always had a leg up on their competition.
From the time when Dennis and Ned started cultivating, when weed didn’t have as clear of a future, to today, one thing has stayed the same: the duo’s adoration for cannabis and its many applications.
When CannaCraft was founded, California was on the brink of recreational legalization, along with Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts. This meant there was about to be a boom of sorts in the cannabis market. As state governments were making their peace with their populations’ undeniable need for marijuana, Dennis and Ned were at the forefront of the industry, creating markets for some of the most popular products today, like 100% cannabis oil vape pens, microdosed edibles, and CBD:THC ratio products.
Since 2014, CannaCraft has continued to exercise a very high level of attention to detail. From its conception, the company has employed the help of leading researchers, along with utilizing manufacturing equipment and techniques from the pharmaceutical, beauty, and food & beverage industries. This integration of proven approaches into their product devision is one of the many things that gave them an edge from the start.
From there, the company’s love for cannabis sparked growth for itself and the industry surrounding it.
As if that’s not impressive enough, the company even has a partnership with Lagunitas for Hi-Fi: a cannabis-infused sparkling water. Turns out that partnership arose from their neighboring headquarters and a shared love for weed and beer. The two companies would have meet-ups after work where they’d share the fruits of their respective labor.
Innovation usually comes with a price, and CannaCraft’s journey has been no exception to that rule. Although (since cannabis’ legalization) they’ve taken every precaution necessary, trouble has arisen on multiple occasions.
One of their most recent run-ins with the law came in 2016, when their headquarters was raided and co-founder Dennis Hunter was arrested with a $5 million bail. The state was accusing Dennis and CannaCraft’s brand ‘Care by Design’ of “running a meth lab-type of operation” in Santa Rosa, which was actually just a factory for creating extract products.
Before long, that $5 million bail and the eye-catching allegations that came with it turned into a $0 bail and a dismissal of all charges. This is all thanks to the cannabis community, which quickly banded together to petition online and in person at the time of this predicament. Within 48 hours of his arrest, Dennis Hunter was released from jail, and CannaCraft got back to work.
In all of its years, the company has never been shy about these trying times. They’ve alchemized this misfortune into social good through their ‘Farmer and the Felon‘ brand, which donates a portion of all its proceeds to helping find justice for non-violent cannabis offenders.
Now you probably see why we’re so excited to link up with CannaCraft at Green Street Festival in Los Angeles this week. CannaCraft will be featuring products from Farmer and the Felon, AbsoluteXtracts, Hi-Fi Sessions, and Kayla Extracts.
Along with CannaCraft, Green Street will be featuring other noteworthy brands and even an appearance from Juicy J. If you’re in Los Angeles this Friday and Saturday, head to the Green Street building in Downtown LA to experience the magic for yourself.
On Wednesday, April 6, serial entrepreneur and pickleball big wig Gary Vaynerchuk revealed the name of his new Major League Pickleball team that will make its debut this season: the 5s. Named after Vaynerchuk’s favorite number, The 5s will feature Competitive Clown, a recently unveiled VeeFriends Series 2 character, as their logo.
“5 means the world to me in the context of sports as it was the first jersey number I received and wore when I came to the US.,” said Vaynerchuk. “My mom knitted that jersey for me, and the number 5 has always been my favorite ever since. Now it’s on our Major League Pickleball team and in our logo, alongside Competitive Clown, and I couldn’t be more proud to have that number, that means so much to me, as our team name.”
With The 5s remaining more of a concept than an actual flesh-and-blood team until the Major League Pickleball Draft on May 28, general manager Ryan Harwood will work to construct the roster and shepherd the team through its inaugural season over the summer. A former tennis player at the University of Pennsylvania, Harwood has worked closely with Vaynerchuk for years, serving as the CEO of Gallery Media Group and the founder of PureWow and ONE37pm; in other words, he’s my boss and he’s tremendously handsome and strong.
“I think every sports fan as a kid dreams of being a GM or owner of a team,” Harwood told ONE37pm, “so I’m very pumped to flex those muscles and see what it takes.”
Drawing on his experience as an elite tennis player, Harwood hopes that his wealth of paddle-sports and management knowledge will translate to pickleball.
“I’m not the most avid pickleball player now,” said Harwood, “but I will become one. It’s really exciting to have the chance to learn about all the players and assemble the best team possible and create a culture the same way that we’ve done in the business world.”
For Vaynerchuk, The 5s represent the acme of an interest in the sport that’s been percolating for years. Like millions of other Americans, Vaynerchuk has fallen in love with pickleball, a passion that was born when he first picked up a paddle and teamed up with Andy Roddick to beat Harwood and Andre Agassi at a charity event four years ago. Unsurprisingly, Vaynerchuk plans on being an innovative and involved owner.
“I feel like I’m going to build strategies and help execute the growth of the sport through my ownership; I plan on being an active owner, not a passive one. It’s my job to put up the dollars and help draft the team, but also to be an ambassador for the sport. Pickleball now is where the NFL and NBA were in the 1950s and ‘60s.”
But beyond growing the sport and understanding the business of, in his words, “underpriced attention,” Vaynerchuk has a single, orienting goal: “I want to win championships.”
On Tuesday, March 29th, serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk announced that he would become one of four new team owners in Major League Pickleball, an Austin, Texas-based elite pickleball league. Established in 2021, Major League Pickleball (MLP) will expand from eight to 12 teams for the 2022 season and feature 48 of the best men’s and women’s pickleball players in the world.
By adding Vaynerchuk to a roster of owners that already featured Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry and American tennis legend James Blake, MLP has demonstrated that pickleball is not just the sport of the future, but that it’s increasingly becoming the sport of the present as well.
“MLP is the most exciting brand in pickleball, a sport that I’m very excited to be coming into at such an important stage of its development,” Vaynerchuk said in a press release. “I’ve been watching the growth of the sport over the last couple of years, and waiting for the right opportunity to jump in.
“What MLP is creating is precisely what I think pickleball needs – innovation, equality, great competition, and a central focus on the social community that this sport creates.”
On May 28, the league will hold its annual draft at Flushing Meadows’ USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where teams will build out their four-player roster for the upcoming season. The event will be livestreamed on on MLP channels including MajorLeaguePickleball.net, MLP YouTube and Facebook.
The regular season will begin the next weekend, with the first event of the year scheduled for June 3-5 at Dreamland in Dripping Springs, Texas. Excitingly, the finals of this event will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, giving MLP exposure to a broad audience of potential fans.
Vaynerchuk has often said that his ultimate dream is to own the New York Jets and joining MLP is a promising step in that direction.
For more information on the upcoming MLP campaign, check out the league’s official website.