What is the Rarest Moment on NBA Top Shot?

Hint: It's not anything from the Cosmic set.

Note: I want to inform you that I may be incorrect with my assumption that NBA Top Shot will never distribute the remaining 7 of this Moment. I don’t have the ear of anyone at NBA Top Shot, but if they reach out to me, I will update this post.

Full Disclosure: I own some of these Moments that I consider the rarest Moments in all of NBA Top Shot.

Want more? I have another article you may want to read after this: I offered $100,000 for a 10-second NBA video clip that you can view on the Internet for free, and was told No Thanks

This article’s subject line requires an asterisk*, because I’m somewhat fibbing to you. The article title should read:

“What is the Rarest Moment in NBA Top Shot that is available to users?”

The answer is James Harden of the From The Top (Series 1) set.

Here is the Moment on YouTube (the first like 20 seconds of this video below):

And now here is that NBA Top Shot Moment, which is the “handles clinic that Houston Rockets superstar James Harden puts on with the sick through-the-legs dribble before nailing the rainbow three-pointer against the LA Clippers on November 22, 2019”:

I was lucky (the verdict is still out on this assumption) to grab this Moment from Peter Jennings.

Why is this the rarest Moment on NBA Top Shot?

There are only 18, distributed.

This James Harden is a #/18 Moment. We may never see a Moment put into circulation (by pack or Challenge reward) that is “of 18” or lower, EVER again.

But Steve, the official NBA Top Shot website says there are 25 in circulation.

Yes, the official NBA Top Shot website does say that. While the official website isn’t technically wrong…

It is misleading you.

Here’s what happened. NBA Top Shot has something called Challenges:

The way new Moments enter the NBA Top Shot ecosystem is mostly through pack drops. New packs are put on the market and they go fast.

With most new drops, a challenge is launched, which dares you to collect one of each of a group of newly available Moments and hold on to them until the challenge timer runs its course. Complete the challenge, and you'll receive a special Moment in return, like this or this or even this. These Moments will never be available in packs and will almost certainly be more scarce than other Moments in the same set.

So, on October 29, 2020, NBA Top Shot decided the following:

To guarantee correct relative scarcity and allow for a baseline number of completable sets in the future, we'll always mint (and eventually distribute) at least 150 rare challenge rewards. For legendary challenges, at least 25 rewards will be minted, and for common challenges this number is 1000.

Well, the people spoke and didn’t like that. So on December 30, 2020, NBA Top Shot updated their policy to the following:

Thanks to your feedback, we'll be dropping the "minimum mint" requirement for challenge rewards beginning with Series 2 challenges (that is, any challenges that award Series 2 challenge rewards). Instead, challenge rewards starting in Series 2 will be considered to be a special case of the tier: such as common*, or rare*. This means that if only 130 collectors complete a rare challenge, only 130 Moments will be minted and distributed. 

There were 42 Challenges up until that change. On the intangible.market website (which is currently down as of this writing, because the influx of traffic has brought down their server), they list these Challenges. For the Challenge that rewarded the James Harden Moment I speak of, you will see that there are 25 minted (aka Circulation) and 18 distributed (aka that exist for buy/sell in the NBA Top Shot Marketplace).

Below is a screenshot of the Challenges, sorted by # of Moments Distributed (and below this screenshot is a link to a full image with all of this information, as well as links to a cached webpage version and the original webpage version whenever that reappears online):

full list as: PNG | cached webpage (I can’t assure you this link will work) | original webpage (whenever their server can get back online to handle traffic)

As you can see from the chart above, the James Harden Moment is the rarest Moment that is in the NBA Top Shot Marketplace.

The rarest Moment Sets in current circulation that were available to anyone from packs are in size totals of:

  1. 49 (Cosmic, Series 1)

  2. 50 (Holo MMXX, Series 1)

  3. 59 (From the Top, Series 1)

  4. 75 (Lace ‘Em Up, Series 1)

  5. 79 (2020 NBA Finals)

  6. 85 (Deck the Hoops, Series 2)

  7. 192 (Rookie Debut, Series 1)

  8. 199 (For The Win, Series 1)

  9. 200 (First Round, Series 1)

  10. 217 (Season Tip-off, Series 2)

  11. 250 (So Fresh, Series 1)

  12. 250 (Denied, Series 1)

  13. 275 (Conference Semifinals, Series 1)

  14. 275 (Throwdowns, Series 1)

  15. 299 (Metallic Gold LE, Series 1)

Note: I hope I got all the sets that are 49-299 in size.

Any Moment with LESS THAN 49 population SHOULD BE considered RARER than ANY Moment from the COSMIC set. The RAREST Moments have only been rewarded by accomplishing Challenges and thus were NOT AVAILABLE FROM PACKS (with less than 49 population), but are available in the Marketplace.

These 12 Moments below are the rarest* of NBA Top Shot:

*That are available in the Marketplace for buying and selling.

  1. 18* (James Harden, From the Top)

  2. 19* (Chris Paul, Holo MMXX)

  3. 20* (Paul George, Holo MMXX)

  4. 23* (Ja Morant, Holo MMXX)

  5. 24* (Trae Young, Holo MMXX)

  6. 25 (Damian Lillard, Holo MMXX)

  7. 32 (LeBron James, Holo MMXX)

  8. 33 (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 2020 NBA Finals)

  9. 36 (De’Aaron Fox, Lace ‘Em Up)

  10. 40 (Steph Curry, Deck The Hoops)

  11. 43 (Tyler Herro, Lace ‘Em Up)

  12. 46 (Jayson Tatum, Lace ‘Em Up)

*There are technically 25 of these Moments minted by NBA Top Shot, however only the number that I have specified have been distributed and made available in the Marketplace for buying and selling.

Note: This should be the end of the article, but I’m about to make an argument for NBA Top Shot to NEVER distribute the remaining Series 1 Challenge Moments (that have been minted, but have not been distributed).

NBA Top Shot on October 29, 2020 specified they would mint a minimum of 25 Legendary rewards “and eventually distribute” any remaining rewards that were not rewarded. On December 30, 2020’s update, they never changed that statement, but only specified that “we'll be dropping the "minimum mint" requirement for challenge rewards beginning with Series 2 challenges (that is, any challenges that award Series 2 challenge rewards)”. Thus, NBA Top Shot’s current position should be interpreted that they will still eventually distribute the outstanding Moments from these Series 1 Challenges someday. I don’t think they should and here’s why…

  1. The Series 1 Challenges were rewarded for completing the specific Challenge at that time. End it there. All Challenge Rewards in future should as well only be distributed as a reward for a Challenge.

  2. I think this extra rarity will be great for NBA Top Shot, current collectors, and future collectors. It’s another unique spoke in the wheel of this Marketplace. (I am biased here with ownership of some of these rarest Moments, but would feel this way regardless)

IDEA: Burn your Moment

Related to my argument above about this “extra rarity”, I have a feature idea. While this is not the time to discuss a new feature for the NBA Top Shot platform (AND I am not sure if it is even feasible with the technical details of the blockchain smart contracts for NBA Top Shot), my idea would be a way for NBA Top Shot to "officially” ensure these outstanding Series 1 Challenge reward Moments will never be distributed. I would love to someday see the ability to burn your Moment, or in other words, permanently destroy a Moment. Thus, imagine the future clickbait headline I will have for you that reads…

Man pays $100,000 for a Moment on NBA Top Shot and permanently destroys it.”

Steve, you’re crazy, why would anyone want to do that? Well, most likely they own an additional Moment from that set and wish to increase the rarity of the remaining sibling Moments. I know, maybe it is a crazy idea, but I could see it happening so that all the other Moments in that set become even rarer.

For example, I currently own 4 of Russell Westbrook’s Moment from Base Set, Series 1. There are 1,000 of these Moments, thus they are all “#/1000”. If I took one of these Moments and burned it, that Moment would be destroyed forever AND all the other Russell Westbrook Moments in this Base Set would become rarer as “#/999”.

Steve, last thing, why did you…

…clarify that this article’s title should have been “What is the Rarest Moment in NBA Top Shot that is available to users?”

On October 2, 2020, NBA Top Shot informed the Community of two Ultimate Moment sets that are “of 1” (#/1) and “of 3” (#/3) sets that will be auctioned off in the future:

When are Ultimate Moment auctions arriving?

Ultimate is the tier above Legendary and we plan to sell those Moments via auction in the future. There is a Genesis set, which is a 1/1 set of each of the first 150 plays that we launched with (5 Moments from each team), and then there’s Platinum Ice which is /3 editions of every play that appears in NBA Top Shot. Those auctions will come down the road once we’re no longer in beta.

Thus, these Moments are technically the rarest on NBA Top Shot, however they are not available to users by any means at this time.

Want to read more?

I have another article: I offered $100,000 for a 10-second NBA video clip that you can view on the Internet for free, and was told No Thanks

Thank you for reading and sharing

I hope you enjoyed this read and I appreciate your sharing of any excerpts you found informative from this article on social media or to a friend.

Sign up to my email newsletter to ensure you get my future insights on NBA Top Shot.