In brief

  • NBA Top Shot, a blockchain-based collectibles game, is lauching in closed beta.
  • The licensed game is developed by Dapper Labs, the studio behind CryptoKitties.
  • Top Shot features tokenized NBA highlights and also pairs with a mobile hoops game.

CryptoKitties developer Dapper Labs is going big for its latest project: NBA Top Shot, an officially licensed, blockchain-driven collectible game featuring tokenized highlights from basketball’s greatest stars.

It will be available to play next week, at least to those who registered interest and receive an invitation to the soon-to-be-released closed beta test.

“What Top Shot does is it allows fans to buy a piece of the on-court action, actually own it, and then be able to sell it,” Dapper Labs VP of Marketing and Partnerships Caty Tedman told Decrypt. “It creates a new economy around the sport that’s never existed before that we’re particularly excited about.”

The tokenized moments arrive as interactive “snapshots of a moment in time,” explained Tedman. They’re multi-faceted, animated widgets of sorts that include video highlights, official NBA photography, stats provided by league partner SportRadar, and additional context.

Players will buy new tokens in blind packs, where they’ll know the scarcity of the included moments but not the actual moments they’ll receive. Packs can be purchased with a credit card, Bitcoin, or Ethereum, with other coins likely to join the fray; Tedman said that they’re surveying players to see what they’d like to use.

Once onboarded, players can buy, sell, and trade individual moments in the marketplace, complete challenges by amassing certain sets of moments, and create in-game “trophy case” spotlights as desired.

The moments can also be used in an upcoming free-to-play mobile game, NBA Top Shot: Hardcourt, which is expected to begin beta testing this summer. Hardcourt can be played without owning the non-fungible tokens (NFTs), but is “made measurably better” by owning them, said Tedman. That’s because the tokens can be equipped in the management-style meta game to improve players’ capabilities.

Going with the Flow

Just last week, Dapper Labs announced that CryptoKitties will ditch the Ethereum blockchain—which it famously crashed when it first exploded in popularity—for Dapper’s own Flow blockchain.

NBA Top Shot will use the very same blockchain, which Tedman suggested helps minimize friction for incoming NBA fans who may not be familiar with blockchain. It can also handle the potentially significant flow of transactions that comes with a larger user base, while hopefully avoiding the growing fees that CryptoKitties players encountered over time.

Going from cartoonish cats to a global sports league like the NBA is a pretty dramatic leap. After CryptoKitties exploded, Tedman said that the team received interest from companies in all sorts of verticals, not to mention celebrities and athletes.

However, it was Dapper Labs that pitched the NBA, seeing the league as an ideal partner thanks to its tech-forward reputation and savvy fanbase. The league already had a blockchain task force examining the technology, so when Dapper came with the pitch, the league was keen to capitalize on the opportunity. Tedman said that the NBA can help bring blockchain to a much larger audience.

“They have a really great vision for how to bring new technology into the basketball ecosystem without making it scary,” she said.

Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to clarify that NBA Top Shot is now currently scheduled to launch next week, according to a Dapper Labs spokesperson.