The National Basketball Association (NBA) and its player’s union partnered with Vancouver-based blockchain company Dapper Labs two years ago to develop NBA Top Shot, a new digital platform. Fast forward to today, and that platform is at the vanguard of the sports collectibles landscape’s evolution.
Top Shot is a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace where fans can buy, sell, and trade NBA moments, which are packed highlight clips that function like trading cards. It was released to the public in October after a period of closed beta testing. Top Shot effectively brings the experience of basketball fans collecting physical objects into the digital sphere, as players bet on the value of their highlight collections increasing over time.
Building the NBA Top Shot platform
From a fan’s perspective, Tedman described how Dapper Labs went about creating the Top Shot platform. Rather than having business-oriented objectives, Dapper Labs set out to create something that users would enjoy and want to return to, accurately predicting that it would be a long-term success.
“We attempted to develop something that fans would adore,” she explained, “and [NBA Top Shot] combines qualities that fans love.” “When we put Top Shot into closed beta, we didn’t have any financial goals in mind.” We wanted to create something that is extremely sticky, that people will want to return to on a daily basis, and that is evocative of basketball love. That, I believe, we accomplished. We started from the standpoint of the fans, so it was difficult for them not to enjoy it. “We’re fans who adore it.”
Throughout the platform’s early phases, the fan-led approach persisted.
Pairing NFTs with real-life experiences
Digital collectibles, in general, can take numerous forms, such as a video highlight or a virtual replica of a renowned game’s ticket stub. Whatever form they take in the future, there appears to be a rising interest in combining NFTs with physical experiences. For example, the Golden State Warriors recently revealed that some of the goods in their first digital collectibles offering will include live experiences such as a unique championship ring presentation during a future game.
Tedman acknowledged that “NFTs as access is a really fascinating use study,” but cautioned that when attaching a digital collection to something in the physical realm, there is still some ambiguity surrounding value.
“The worth of those two things separately is quite perplexing,” she remarked. “When you see projects that say ‘here’s the total cost,’ and you receive a physical object plus an NFT, it always begs the question: is the cost of the actual item and then the NFT tossed in? Is it because of the NFT’s price, and the physical item is a bonus? I believe there is some misunderstanding in the industry about what the physical IRL components bring to the table, but unlocking experiences and the ability to have access is a terrific way to think about it.
Maintaining positive engagement
NBA Top Shot also features a vibrant Discord-based digital ecosystem. Although Dapper Labs did not plan on using the audio forum platform, it has since become synonymous with NBA Top Shot. Dapper Labs has been lucky, according to Tedman, in that the community it formed during testing has morphed into moderators in the Discord servers’ talks.
“I believe our Discord server has been more positive than people expect from a forum because that beta group or closed beta group – and some of our early adopters – are now moderators for us and have been stewards of what the fan connection with Top Shot should be,” she explained. “Being the arbiters of what the culture is and maintaining the good culture has been really wonderful for us as a company because we aim to be incredibly open and fan-forward.”