Luka Garza becomes first college athlete to sell his own NFT card

Adam Hensley
Hawk Central

Iowa basketball's Luka Garza made history Tuesday, becoming the first college athlete to sell his own NFT card.

Garza appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch to share the announcement.

"I'm an economics major, and I've been following the tech world closely," Garza told CNBC. "Blockchain technology is something that really interests me. My dad was also into the tech world as well, so I think both of us talking about it and seeing other athletes ... do this, I thought it was a really cool and unique opportunity to be able to start pushing my branding."

The auction began Tuesday evening at OpenSea and concluded on Friday. The winning bid? $41,141.81.

Garza explained that he won't keep all the money earned from the sale of his NFT; a portion of the proceeds will go toward the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.

More:Iowa's Luka Garza wins prestigious Wooden Award, becomes unanimous national player of the year

"It's really important as well that some of the proceeds go to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital," he said. "That's something I'm really passionate about. I think it's going to make it so it's for a good cause."

Garza's NFT looks similar to a trading card — four different images of the Iowa center are on the square, along with his signature.

Garza wanted to take a chance on a rising trend in the digital world. The idea popped into his head during the season, but once Iowa lost to Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the wheels began to turn.

More:Leistikow: Luka Garza scores 36 points, says he didn't do enough in Iowa's NCAA Tournament exit

"After a few days of reflecting, I started to think of some ideas," Garza said. "This had been in my head for a while, but I never really talked about it. My dad had been thinking the same thing. We were able to talk about it, thought it was a good idea, and felt the timing was fitting. I didn't want to take away from anything in the NCAA Tournament."

Iowa center Luka Garza reacts after learning his No. 55 jersey would be retired following the Hawkeyes' March 7 home win against Wisconsin.

What is an NFT?

NFT stands for non-fungible token.

In simpler terms, it's a one-of-a-kind digital asset. Unlike other digital items, such as bitcoin, NFTs can't be broken up and sold into pieces.

Think of Garza's NFT as a single trading card, only it isn't coming from a box. It's a piece of digital art.

More:Iowa basketball's Jack Nunge announces decision to transfer

College athletes still can't make money off their name, image, and likeness — a widespread debate involving players across the country, including teammate Jordan Bohannon.

Luka Garza was planning to study Oregon film vs. USC, which has top big man Evan Mobley. Interestingly, USC could be the next opponent for the Iowa-Oregon winner.

But with Garza's Hawkeye career over, he views this move as a stepping stone in the world of college athletes earning money.

"I'm very thankful for the NCAA and the opportunity to get an education while I'm in school and to pursue a degree in economics," Garza said. "I don't want to take anything away from that, but obviously we've seen the great work of a lot of college athletes around the country. One of my teammates, Jordan Bohannon, is huge in pushing these kind of issues. I stand with the change in times. I think this is something that athletes in the future could do to make money off their name, image, and likeness through something like an NFT. This is something that could provide an example if the name, image, and likeness (bill) is passed."

What else is Luka Garza auctioning?

Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) reacts after a play against the Oregon Ducks during the first half in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament March 22, 2021 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

In addition to his NFT, Garza announced that the winner of the auction will also receive a pair of autographed shoes, a chance to play a game of HORSE with Garza, and also dinner and a movie with the program's all-time leading scorer.

Frank Garza, Luka's father, also tweeted that the winner will receive a meditation session with Luka "to learn the secret to elite performance consistency," as well as a "lifetime VIP pass to any Luka Garza basketball camp."

"I credit a lot of my success to when I started routinely doing meditation," Luka Garza told CNBC. "That was during my junior year. It's something cool for whoever wins the NFT to see what gets me locked in and what gets me to succeed at the highest level... this makes it a unique NFT. It's not just an image or a piece of art — there's a personal connection that goes along with it."

Read more Iowa basketball news

Adam Hensley is a digital producer with the USA Today Network. You can follow him on Twitter @A_Hens83.