In brief

  • NBA Top Shot is a series of collectible trading cards issued as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
  • Each NFT represents a "moment" from basketball history.

NBA Top Shot is the latest crypto collectibles craze, in which the most iconic moments in NBA history are turned into non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

An NFT is a special type of cryptocurrency token that’s cryptographically unique—meaning that, like physical collectibles such as trading cards, they have a limited supply. And they’re becoming a worldwide phenomenon—with NBA Top Shot leading the way.

NBA Top Shot logo
NBA Top Shot lets you collect basketball moments. Image: NBA Top Shot.

In the last month alone, 100,000 people have purchased NBA Top Shot moments, according to data provider CryptoSlam, either hoping to possess their star’s favorite jump shot or to make money by selling it for a higher price.

With the increased attention, prices for NBA Top Shots are rising. Current prices range from $14 for a Rudy Gay dunk to $240,000 for a Ja Morant dunk.

What are NBA Top Shot collectibles?

NBA Top Shot is the biggest mainstream example of digital collectible cards. You can think of them as trading cards, but instead of being printed on card, they’re kept on a blockchain. This means you can keep them in your digital wallet and send them to other people, or sell them in online marketplaces.

Each Top Shot features a moment from basketball history, in the form of a short video clip.

Similar to trading cards, there are multiple cards for each moment. Packs are released in various sizes, with smaller packs increasing the rarity of the cards. The common tier includes packs that have 10,000 cards or more. The rare tier has packs of 150-4,999 cards and the legendary tier limits them to 25-499 cards.

Within each pack, each card has its own serial number. But these can cause prices to vary wildly. For example, for a Jayson Tatum jump shot, the lowest ask is $52; the highest sale, for serial #5206, $28,000. That’s a huge discrepancy for the same card—something to bear in mind if you’re looking to resell the cards.

Jayson Tatum shooting hoops
A Jayson Tatum assist. Image: NBA Top Shot.

There are multiple trading sets too. The “For The Win” series comprises 10 specific moments from one of Spencer Dinwiddie’s jump shots to a Nemanja Bjelica three-pointer. They are all rare cards.

Creating an account with Dapper Labs

Unlike traditional trading cards, these collectibles aren’t printed out on paper and sold in physical stores. Rather, NBA Top Shot cards are stored on the Flow blockchain, which was built by Dapper Labs (the team behind early NFT phenomenon CryptoKitties). So they’re a little bit more complicated to get hold of.

To get started, you’ll need to register for NBA Top Shot with Dapper. You can do this by clicking sign up on the Top Shot website. Creating a Dapper account gives you a wallet that stores funds and enables you to purchase crypto collectibles.

Signing up for Dapper
How to sign up for Dapper. Image: Dapper Labs.

Registering with Dapper is straightforward. You sign in via Google or email, then provide your telephone number and verify it. Dapper then provides you with a code that you need to keep safely in case you lose access via the device you’re on. It’s important to write this down somewhere and keep it in a safe place, as it controls access to your account.

Getting started with NBA Top Shot

Once you’ve registered with Dapper, you can go straight to NBA Top Shot and use the account to sign in.

The first time you sign in, you’ll be greeted with a couple of introductory videos, before you’re asked if you want to join the NBA Top Shot Discord channel. Then you’ll be able to select which team you support.

Choosing your basketball team
You can choose your favorite team. Image: NBA Top Shot.

Once you’re in, you will see your randomly generated username. You can easily change this by clicking “change username,” going to your Dapper Labs profile and choosing something that suits you better.

Now you can explore the packs on offer (which will typically be sold out!) and the marketplace where you can buy trading cards second hand. But in order to buy anything, you’ll need some funds.

Loading up your account

In order to buy an NBA Top Shot moment, you’ll need to put some funds into your Dapper account.

You can do this by going to “Payment and Payouts” on the site. Here, you choose how much you want to put into your account; you’ll have to agree to Dapper’s terms and conditions. Then you can either pay with a credit card, by entering your details, or with cryptocurrency. Dapper accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and two stablecoins: DAI and USDC.

Adding money to your account
How to add funds to your Dapper account. Image: Dapper Labs.

Once you’ve loaded up your account with funds, you may need to wait for them to land in your wallet (cryptocurrencies can sometimes be a bit slow) before they’re ready to spend. You will also have to pay network fees when making a cryptocurrency transaction, so make sure to check how much that will cost and account for it (Bitcoin fees are currently around $13 per transaction).

Using the NBA Top Shot marketplace

The marketplace can be a bit overwhelming, because there are thousands of Top Shot cards—but there are ways to narrow down the list. You can select moments for specific teams or players, and you can rank the cards by price.

If you want to purchase a card, you will need to find the moment you like and select the serial number of the specific card. Then you click purchase and you can pay with the funds in your Dapper account.

After that, what can you do with them? Well, you can store the cards and watch the moments when you want. You can then put them up for sale, or, if you’re generous enough, you can gift them to a friend. What you can’t do is use the footage in the Top Shot yourself, or modify the image without permission—in fact, the NBA’s lawyers have put together a laundry list of prohibitions restricting what you can do with their costly IP.