Back to the future: Costacos returns with Willie Mays and an NFT

If you are old enough to recall the Seahawk’s Brian Bosworth, Husky Coach Don James, and other local sports stars from the late 1980’s you will remember a series of popular posters from that era. Remember the “Dawgfather” poster?

The man behind those images is back and this time he’s got the legendary Willy Mays. But it’s not a poster now. It’s an “NFT” and the purpose is not profit but instead to assist well known athletes and their foundations.

West Seattle artist John Costacos, who established a genre of sports art with his famed sports personality poster creations, along with co-founder and CEO Justin Moorad and Digital Art Director Mike Campau, has unveiled a new blockchain-based digital collectibles company, the Costacos Collection.

The Costacos Collection is partnering with an initial lineup of legendary NFL, MLB, and NBA players and their charitable foundations, including Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Pudge Rodriguez, Jim McMahon, Roger Clemens, Will Clark, and others to be announced in the coming weeks.

The NFT art piece focused on Mays, now 90 years old, features several memorabilia items alongside narration by announcer Bob Costas.

The NFT assemblage includes:

• Mays’ high school diploma, with his assigned profession. White students in segregated Alabama were allowed to decide on their own professions, but Black students were not.

• One of Mays’ report cards from high school; he was considered the best baseball player, point guard and quarterback in the state but received a B in gym class (though he did get an A in sportsmanship).

• A scouting report on Mays — who is described as a “colored boy,” as all Black players were before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. The scout said Mays “has the best reflexes and coordination I’ve seen in a long time.” It notes that if Mays were white, he would be considered “a franchise player.”

• The $250 a month contract that Mays signed with the Birmingham Barons.

• The Western Union telegram that informed the Barons that Mays’ contract had been purchased for $10,000 by the New York Giants organization and that he would be assigned to the Minneapolis Millers minor league team.

• A newspaper article with a headline that says Mays had a chance to become “a dusky Joe DiMaggio.”

• The floorin the image is covered with 660 baseballs, representing the number of home runs he hit in his major league career.

The Costacos Collection – the predecessor of which sold over 30,000,000 posters from 1986-96 – utilizes the blockchain medium to help the world’s greatest athletes capture their most significant moments, tell their most meaningful stories, and create new digital experiences to connect with fan communities. In addition to re-imagining John’s revered poster art, the Costacos Collection is creating new digital art as NFTs, with the tokens serving as the ticket to the company’s upcoming Hall of Fame Metaverse.

The Topps Company will also be a partner of the Collection, drawing on content from its vast historical archives and working with Costacos to create new content with Topps’ current-athlete partners. will serve as the gateway to the company’s listings as well as post-sale experiences, which will include communities and experiences exclusive to NFT owners. The company plans to fill the gap where Big Tech’s social media has failed: enabling fans to connect with and support their heroes directly. Through community engagement features, museum-style social displays, games, raffles and giveaways, trading and staking based on live and AI generated sporting events, and the bridging of the digital with physical items and events, the company is pursuing a vision not held back by any one particular partnership or association.

“We believe in the long-term power of the technology,” said CEO Justin Moorad. “With a chain agnostic approach, we’re able to form partnerships across the ecosystem – from the highest quality art minted securely on Ethereum, to games built on Solana, to opportunities for proprietary fungible tokens, the Costacos Collection is building technology that positions our athletes at the center of the evolving landscape.”

John Costacos’ posters included imagery, slogans, and nicknames that stuck with players for the rest of their careers, including his first poster, Kenny Easley’s “The Enforcer,” the Oakland A’s “Bash Brothers,” Charles Barkley’s “Get Off My Backboard,” Jerry Rice’s “Goldfingers,” Michael Jordan’s “Space, The Final Frontier,” Joe Montana’s “The Golden Great,” Jim McMahon’s “Mad Mac,” Walter Payton’s “Chicago Vice,” Rickey Henderson’s “Man of Steal,” Troy Aikman’s “Strong Arm of the Law,” and many others with athletes such as Jackie Joyner- Kersee, Ken Griffey Jr., Bo Jackson, John Elway, Dominique Wilkins, and Magic Johnson. In addition to working with legacy athletes, Costacos will create new digital artwork with a growing number of today’s future Hall of Famers, Rookies of the Year, and Heisman-level college athletes.

“As an athlete of color and an entrepreneur, and as someone with roots in Seattle personally and professionally, nothing exuded cool more than a Costacos poster,” said Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon. “The Costacos Collection will now be able to recapture that cool in digital art, which is going to be fun for all the veteran athletes from all sports who became part of his ‘must have collection’ as well as for a new generation who will be engaging with this unique artwork for the first time. It’s an honor to be part of this unveiling.”

“My relationship with every athlete came from listening to their creative process and thinking of what we, as fans, would want to see, and that process has never really changed over the years,” Costacos said. “The growth of digital technology gives us an exciting chance not just to offer pieces in digital form, but to take them and retell the story with the athlete’s input now 20 years later, along with all-new digital art pieces.”

“John Costacos and his artwork helped expand the reach of the most legendary athletes of a generation to fans who knew us for being in unique artwork sometimes more than what we did on the field,” said Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. “Now being able to revisit that artwork as NFTs will open new doors for fans who can collect the pieces yet again. I know for the LatinX audience that craves connecting with its heroes, this will be a fun and unique experience that should open more opportunities for NFTs as well.”


About John Costacos and The Costacos Collection

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Costacos attended the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in Finance, notably with no formal education in graphic design, photography, printing or art. A lifelong sports fan, John and his brother Tock had a fascination with mixing sports and pop culture in a time when the two areas rarely shared a stage. He created T-shirts of his alma mater’s football team titled “Purple Reign,” a reference to the Washington Huskies’ purple colors and Prince’s song “Purple Rain,” and quickly sold out of his initial run of 20,000 T-shirts. That led to a second project when John dreamed up the slogan “Real Men Wear Black” and put it on a T-shirt for LA Raiders fans. That popular design, with no marketing budget, was a massive commercial success. It sold out in very short order and got the brothers an invite to the Raiders headquarters in El Segundo, California, where they met All- Pro defensive back Lester Hayes, who asked them to create “Lester’s Court,” modeled after a reference to “The Judge” nickname Hayes earned while playing at Texas A&M and an allusion to the very popular “The People’s Court” television show. The images were shot in a courthouse with Tock dressed in San Francisco 49ers colors, presenting footballs marked with game dates of Hayes’ interceptions. The Hayes imagery was wildly popular and the pair started to pursue poster-making in full force, beginning with local Seattle Seahawks star Kenny Easley. The Easley poster led to another poster of Chicago Bears sensation Jim McMahon, and the business skyrocketed from there. Costacos was out of the art and sports world for almost two decades until 2016, when he was commissioned to relaunch his unique point of view for a poster of then-rising star Russell Wilson, to raise money for Wilson’s “Why Not You” Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to education, children’s health and fighting poverty. The fundraiser for the release of the poster, hosted by ESPN’s Kenny Mayne, netted $435,000, highlighted by the auction of the first two printed posters for $30,000 each. In 2018, Costacos created a poster of New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge for Adidas to announce their endorsement deal with him. It was prominently featured on billboards and bus stops across New York City and became a must have piece for thousands of fans. The interest in the original Costacos pieces has also never waned, as evidenced by UFC President Dana White purchasing 40 original Costacos works in a New York art gallery for over $100,000 alongside Hall of Famer Alex Rodriguez who spent nearly $40,000 himself on a series of posters the last time the original pieces were on public sale a few years ago. These recent instances, along with the encouragement and persuasion of a growing list of elite athletes and collectors, raised the itch for Costacos to get back in the game. But this time Costacos, presents a unique twist to the traditional, combining his rare mix of artistic vision and his penchant for capturing sports figures into breathtaking, cutting-edge digital form.

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