For many fans of basketball, being able to own an iconic dunk or buzzer-beater is an opportunity that cannot be passed up. That’s where Dapper Labs’ NBA TopShot comes in. Sitting at the sweet spot between physical trading cards and the innovation of NFT technology, TopShot allows collectors and traders to buy and sell video highlights of their favorite basketball players doing what they do best.
With NBA TopShot, collectors can enjoy the fun of trading card scarcity, without the fear of damage or theft. While to some traditional collectors collecting NBA TopShot cards can seem strange, the market is booming with an incredible amount of activity.
Here, we’ll discuss exactly what is NBA TopShot, look at whether it’s worth investing in these virtual collectibles (it is!), and how you can get involved.
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NBA TopShot can be thought of like trading cards on steroids. Whereas a traditional paper-based trading card would have a simple static image on the front with some stats and basic information on the back, TopShot ramps this up thanks to blockchain technology. NBA TopShot explained, in a nutshell, is digital trading cards based on blockchain technology, subject to the same price pressures of supply and demand.
Existing as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Flow blockchain, these digital collectibles recreate that feeling of opening a foil pack of cards, looking for a rare shiny but in a digital form. Each collectible is tied to the blockchain with a unique serial number and immutable guarantee of authenticity. This means that even if someone makes a like-for-like copy of a TopShot NFT, it can be spotted as a fake.
“Owning” a TopShot means having that particular NFT associated with your digital wallet.
And, thanks to Dapper Labs partnering up with the NBA, gone are the static images of players and instead replaced with dynamic video highlights of legendary moments in the game. The NFTs celebrate the game’s greatest moments, immortalizing them forever thanks to cryptographic technology.
The cards and packs can be bought directly from the TopShot website or marketplace. And while this is not the first collaboration between emerging tech and sports, it’s certainly one of the biggest thus far with fans and traders willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions for certain rare cards such as a first series Cosmic edition of LeBron James‘ dunking against the Kings back in 2019.
There are two main ways of acquiring NBA TopShot highlights, known to the community as “moments.”
These moments vary in rarity, ranging from common all the way up to legendary and ultimate.
The first is to simply visit the NBA TopShot marketplace. Explained via a useful welcoming video, the marketplace lets you see what’s available. This peer-to-peer marketplace offers collectors the chance to buy individual cards from other people with Dapper Labs’ website helping narrow your search by collections of name, set, or tier. Or, if you just want to browse, the marketplace has some extensive filtering features to allow some fine-tuned searching.
For example, if a collector wanted a Rare or Legendary moment of Kevin Durant, it’s simply a matter of ticking the appropriate boxes and seeing what’s available. Prices can be shown in dollars, Ethereum, or the native Flow currency, ranging from just a few dollars to hundreds of thousands.
Alternatively, users can purchase packs of cards that also vary in rarity. These are “dropped” intermittently by Dapper Labs and typically involves sitting in a virtual queue to get hold of your own digital foil pack.
They range from around $9 to over $200, with the chance of rare cards increasing the more you pay. While there is no set time or day these packs are released, they often coincide with real-world events and seasons such as Christmas.
Registering to be notified by email is the best way to ensure you get in early for the next pack drop.
NBA TopShot was created in 2019 when Dapper Labs formed a licensing agreement with the basketball association and its players’ union.
Despite being around for a couple of years, it wasn’t until early 2021 that the project took hold of fans’ imaginations and found itself becoming more widely talked about receiving attention from news outlets and the Wall Street Journal. Now better known, players themselves are looking to purchase their own moments, and even create moments to get immortalized on the blockchain.
Typically the NBA aims to make 10-15% on sales that use its intellectual property such as the highlights used in TopShot moments. So far, the TopShot market has traded over $700 million in terms of volume, with nearly 11 million sales conducted. The marketplace is also extremely active with almost 500,000 traders building their collection and seeking the rarest moments.
Just like traditional trading cards, collecting NBA TopShots is as cheap or expensive you feel comfortable investing in.
In the world of paper and ink, a 1948 Bowman card of George Mikan could run a collector upwards of $90,000. In the world of baseball, things are yet more expensive, with a rare 1952 Mickey Mantle card selling for $2.88 million in 2018. But on the other end of the spectrum, you have your everyday “common” cards that make up the bulk of the billion-dollar industry that is trading cards.
The same goes for TopShot moments. While some LeBron James, Fred VanVleet, and Zion Williamson moments can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions, there are cards that can be had for under $20.
With packs offering the chance of obtaining a rare card you also don’t necessarily need to spend big bucks to get hold of the more scarce NFTs.
The long-term prospects of NBA TopShot look promising, making any early investment likely to accumulate in value over the years.
Dapper Labs’ head of partnership Caty Tedman believes it’s a 100-year product, with the Flow blockchain preserving ownership indefinitely. For Tedman, everyone participating in the TopShot economy now is getting in on the ground floor.
With newer generations considered digital natives, getting over the “intangibility” problem is not such a concern. Being able to show and share collectibles or digital assets via mobile devices is not considered inferior to physical products to those comfortable with the technology. In many ways, it’s actually superior thanks to the immutability of blockchain technology and the ability to establish provenance.
Down the line, Dapper Labs hopes to allow collectors to form their own dream team via their “Hardcourt” platform. Squads of NBA moments will compete in virtual matches and competitions, meaning each NFT will become yet more unique and establish its own history. This project can be thought of as similar to fantasy football only, you literally own your team.
The rarity of a TopShot moment depends on its tier:
Common moments are accessible and widely available in large edition sizes.
Fandom moments are special collectibles with a flexible level of rarity and edition size. These are not as easy to obtain as other moments, with the moments often given away at events for dedicated collectors.
Rare moments come in smaller edition sizes, making them scarcer and more coveted. These are designed to be hard to come by and getting your hands on one usually involves a bit of luck or a steeper investment.
Legendary moments are considered the best option for elite collectors, sought after by investors for their extreme scarcity. With just a small amount minted, they are hard to come by and cost a lot more.
In the future, an even higher tier is set to be launched: ultimate. These will be the rarest of rare moments with price tags expected to match.
In addition to the tier of a card, the lower the serial number the better too. While this is purely a psychological trend, collectors tend to value cards with a lower number more than higher versions. While a moment with serial number #505 is only ten away from #495, for example, the latter will tend to be worth more for crossing below the 500 hundred threshold.
Currently, the most expensive TopShot moment is the LeBron James Dunk in its Cosmic variety. The card is now valued at over $2 million.
Getting involved in NBA TopShot is easy with Dapper Labs’ slick website making the process hassle-free.
First things first you’ll want to create yourself a Dapper Labs account.
You can do this by visiting the NBA TopShot website and clicking the “sign up” button in the top right of the screen. This provides you with a Dapper account and a digital wallet to store collectibles and funds.
Sign up can be achieved through a Google account or email address, with a telephone number used to verify your identity.
You will also be given a code that is used to recover access to your account. This should be kept hidden and safe, off your computer.
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2. Watch the tutorial and select the team you support
After signing in, you’ll be asked which team you support so the website can customize your TopShot better and be greeted with a couple of videos that show you the basics.
After this, you’ll be then given a random username that can be changed on your profile page.
To take part in the TopShot economy, you’ll need to add funds to your wallet.
First, go to “payment and payouts” and then choose the amount you wish to add. After agreeing to the terms and conditions you can choose to fund by credit card or cryptocurrency.
Dapper Labs currently accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, USDC, and DAI.
After the funds are received you’re ready to get started.
While pack drops are not always available, it’s best to see if there are any currently going as these provide some of the best returns. If a pack is currently on sale, you will likely need to sit in a queue before being able to purchase. If you’re lucky enough to get hold of one, Dapper Labs has provided a great pack opening experience, with the rarest typically left until last.
For your day-to-day trading, however, you’ll want to look at the marketplace where other collectors can set their own prices. Buying on the marketplace is as simple as using a website such as Amazon or eBay, simply find the card you’re interested in and purchase with the funds you loaded onto your account.