He Gave Up the NFL for Pokemon Cards

And as Zak Keefer of the Athletic reports, the move has paid off for Blake Martinez
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2023 10:05 AM CDT
He Gave Up the NFL for Pokemon Cards
Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Blake Martinez leaves the field after a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022. He would retire days later.   (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

To get to the heart of this story, you'll need to unpack the following sentence: "Blake brings the same level of hype he had sacking a quarterback when he pulls a Charizard from a pack." The quote is from an exec at Whatnot, a platform where collectibles are bought and sold. The "Blake" in question is Blake Martinez, who, as Zak Keefer reports for the Athletic, walked away from his lucrative career as an NFL linebacker last year at the age of 28 to sell Pokemon cards. And Charizard, as everyone knows, is a dragon-ish Pokemon character. Strange as it sounds, all of that is true: Martinez retired from the game to hawk game cards. He did so early in the season after registering a team-high 11 tackles for his Las Vegas Raiders in a game against Jacksonville. Two years before that, the New York Giants had given him a $30 million contract.

"I just asked myself, do I want to keep starting over from ground zero with football, and keep destroying my body, or do I want to start over from ground zero here, and do something I can actually sustain for a long time?" says Martinez of his career shift. The reference to starting over is to injuries he had suffered, though his 11-tackle game suggested he had returned to form. But he tells Keefer that his heart wasn't in the NFL anymore. Instead, it was with his new obsession of buying unopened boxes of Pokemon cards and then dramatically revealing them one by one to buyers in a livestream. (It's called a "box break" in industry jargon.) And it's no mere hobby: Martinez says revenues for his company Blake's Breaks have surpassed $11.5 million in less than year. His 20 full-time staffers conduct 16 hours of livestreams a day, making Martinez a major player in the Pokemon world, just as he once was on the football field. Read the full story. (Or check out other longforms.)

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