What Is NBA Top Shot? A Complete Beginner’s Guide for 2022

If you’re a fan of basketball or the blockchain – and especially if you’re a fan of both – you’ve probably heard of NBA Top Shot.

And you’ve definitely heard of Bitcoin by now.

You’ve probably heard of how valuable it’s become, too.

At the time of this writing, a single Bitcoin is worth more than $55,000.

Last week, it reached over $60,000.

If you’re like me and passed up on the famous cryptocurrency numerous times – even as it grew in value – you’ve been keeping your eyes open for another opportunity to strike.

NBA Top Shot may be that opportunity.

Even by blockchain standards, this newest entry has become insanely popular in a very short period of time.

But does that mean Top Shot is worth investing in?

Or is its hot streak about to come to an end?

What Is NBA Top Shot?

Let’s start with the fundamentals.

NBA Top Shot is a blockchain-based platform that supports the digital version of traditional basketball cards.

Except, instead of buying and trading physical pictures of your favorite players, Top Shot “moments” are video highlights that you can buy as an NFT (Non-Fungible Token).

However, unlike so many blockchain products, Top Shot is connected to a very well-known company: the National Basketball Association.

Does NBA Top Shot Represent a New Era for the Blockchain?

This unique partnership between an international corporation and a well-known blockchain producer may create a very interesting improvement on both collectibles and NFTs.

Sports cards have been popular collectibles since their inception, but fraud has always been a problem. There is an entire cottage industry around examining sports cards to certify their legitimacy and quality before a buyer pays big money for them.

Dallas Mavericks CEO and world-famous entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, summed up this aspect of combining the blockchain and collectibles like this:

This persistent problem is practically tailor made for the blockchain, which was largely designed to rid financial transactions of fraudulence.

And yet, even the success of Bitcoin hasn’t been enough to push cryptocurrencies to mainstream acceptance. That remains a major challenge for those promoting blockchain technologies. To most people, it’s still a vague concept and a niche industry.

Putting a household name like the NBA behind a blockchain product might be exactly what it takes to attract interest from those who have otherwise continued to look at these digital assets with skepticism.

So, NBA Top Shot may help introduce a brand-new and broader audience to the blockchain while generating new interest in the old pastime of collecting sports memorabilia.

“Why Do I Need to Buy a Highlight That I Can Watch on YouTube for Free?”

If you’re like most people, some version of this thought bubbles up in your brain when you hear about buying and selling digital highlights that are easily accessible to the public.

If you’re a fan of the NBA, you probably already spend a good amount of your time watching highlights on YouTube for free.

So, why would you spend money – much less a lot of money – to do this simply because the highlight is now a “Top Shot” instead?

There are two reasons.

The first is the same that applies to just about any piece of art or collectible that is bought and sold for large sums of money.

Why waste millions on a Picasso when you can go on Amazon and buy the same image for a couple bucks?

People want the original and people are willing to pay more to know they have either the only one or at least one of the only ones.

Again, according to Mark Cuban, owning a digital original doesn’t take away from this satisfaction:

“With digital goods, I still have the same sense of ownership as with a physical good, and again the value is still set by supply and demand.”

From this perspective, owning a Top Shot moment isn’t that different than more familiar forms of sports memorabilia.

The other reason is that there is only a certain number of each Top Shot moment. On the Top Shot Marketplace, this number is referred to as “edition size.” And this approach to limiting the number of moments is the “supply and demand” that Cuban was just referencing.

So, while an unlimited number of people can watch NBA highlights on YouTube (or videos from our amazing YouTube channel), only one person can own a given moment at any time. Serial numbers ensure that two moments of the same highlight are still unique.

How Do You Buy NBA Top Shot Moments?

Alright, let’s get to the fun part now: how to actually buy moments on the Top Shot Marketplace.

I’ll walk you through each step, but before that, let me quickly explain how they’re made and distributed in the first place.

How Moments Are Made and Distributed

Dapper Labs is the company that actually owns NBA Top Shot. It’s also the company that created the blockchain used for the platform. They had to design a brand-new one because their last venture – which I’ll cover in-depth at the end – was so successful that it actually impacted the use of the popular cryptocurrency it was based on, Ethereum.

So, for Top Shot, Dapper Labs created a new cryptocurrency called Flow.

On the other side of the partnership, the NBA chooses which plays from each game should become a Top Shot moment and then sends them to Dapper Labs to:

  •         Digitally “mint” the popular moment
  •         Decide how many to make
  •         Give each one a number
  •         Add them to a “pack”

The company then releases these packs to the public through the official marketplace on the NBA’s website:

They make their money on these initial sales and earn 5% on each transaction when buyers sell their moments on the marketplace. When buyers cash out, Dapper Labs charges a fee to cover the cost of handling a bank transfer.

How to Create an NBA Top Shot Account

So, that’s how they make Top Shot moments.

Now, let’s talk about how you can actually purchase them.

To do this, you’ll need to join the Top Shot Marketplace.

To do that, you’ll have to create an account with Dapper Labs.

You can do that right from the Top Shot homepage:

It’s incredibly easy (or, at least, it should be; keep reading and I’ll explain).

After that, congrats!

You can now go purchase NBA Top Shot moments for sale on the marketplace.

How to Buy NBA Top Shot Moments

Once your account is created, you have three options for acquiring moments.

The first is to simply buy individual cards right from the Marketplace just as you would do from a card shop or trade show. In fact, you can even trade your digital moments with other collectors.

This first option is the source of headlines about Top Shot moments being sold for six figures, but you can also find plenty at more reasonable prices.

The second option is to buy your moments in “packs”, where you get more than one at a time, though you can’t be sure which ones you’ll be paying for. It’s the same concept as traditional packs of cards.

One big difference, though, is that these packs aren’t available whenever you’re ready to buy. Instead, the NBA Top Shot Marketplace does “drops.” Dapper Labs announces dates and times when you can apply to be one of the lucky ones who will be allowed to buy a pack. After creating your account, you’ll receive these updates via email.

The third option for getting the moments you want is to head over to the NBA Top Shot Challenges page and complete one to win the promised moment.

For example, if you wanted this moment showcasing the skills of Mike Conley, you’d have about two weeks to collect at least one of each of the moments specified in the link provided.

These moments will never show up in packs, so you either have to win them or trade for them later.

The 3 Different Types of Top Shot Packs

Top Shot Packs come in three varieties:

  •         Common
  •         Rate
  •         Legendary 

You can probably figure out what each name pertains to.

Common will include moments that are the least exclusive with an edition size of at least 10,000. In fact, Top Shot can decide to mint even more of them later on if they want.

On the other hand, you’ll pay big bucks to acquire a Legendary pack, but they’ll include moments that were “minted” in much smaller amounts (between 25-499 times), which will not be reminted.

Different packs will have different numbers of moments, too. You can find out what kinds of moments will be inside by clicking on a pack in the Marketplace. Top Shot will also tell you about new packs well before they drop, too.

I Tried – and Failed – to Buy a Pack of NBA Top Shot Moments

For the sake of research, I tried buying a pack of NBA Top Shot Moments just now during a drop.

…and I struck out (yes, I know that’s the wrong sport).

So, as I mentioned earlier, while the process to sign up is straightforward, that hasn’t necessarily made it easy.

When I went to create my account with Dapper, I received the following message:

Apparently, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

The popularity of Top Shot has led to the entire site crashing before. Constant stress tests seem to be commonplace, too.

Again, I found this out the hard way when I went to buy my first pack.

I imagine the company will eventually move past these obstacles, though. At least for now, there’s simply too much money to be made to let these kinds of problems stand in the way.

Still, if you’re eager to buy your first Top Shot pack anytime soon, it may take a few tries to open your Dapper account. Even then, it may take a few tries before you’re able to get in the queue to actually make a purchase.

And even then, you could very well be “waiting in line” with hundreds-of-thousands of other hopeful Top Shot collectors.

“…it has enormous potential that no other investment I have access to can mimic.”

That’s how a financial analyst recently described NBA Top Shot to the Wall Street Journal. The analyst, Michael Levy, had amassed a collection of Top Shot moments worth $20 million over the course of 6 months for only $175,000.

While I am, by no means, a financial analyst myself, I don’t think Mr. Levy is alone in his opinion. A couple months ago, I had never heard of Top Shot before. Now, I hear about it more and more – on podcasts, social media, and even among some of my friends.

Though it was only introduced in October 2020, the marketplace for these digital moments is already worth more than $255 million.

According to CryptoSlam!, the value of Top Shot moments sold in just the last 30 days is more than $7.6 million!

A Word of Caution: Looking at Dapper Labs’ Last Venture, CryptoKitties

Obviously, I find this whole idea intriguing and I’m excited about seeing where it goes.

And, yes, I may still try to buy a pack or two.

That said, I want to repeat what stated earlier: I’m not a financial advisor and I certainly don’t claim to know what’s going to happen with Top Shot.

In that regard, it’s probably worth noting that this isn’t the first time Dapper Labs has garnered media attention for one of its creations.

Last time, it was over a different blockchain paltform called CryptoKitties, “…a game centered around breedable, collectible, and oh-so adorable creatures…Each cat is one-of-a-kind and 100% owned by you; it cannot be replicated, taken away, or destroyed.”

Just like moments are being compared to digital basketball cards, CryptoKitties were once likened to “digital Beanie Babies.”

In another coincidental overlap, NBA superstar Steph Curry once partnered with CryptoKitties to auction off three CurryKitties back when the NFT had more than 1.5 million users.

And similar to what we’ve seen with Top Shot, someone once paid $170,000 for a CryptoKitty.

However, since the height of the CryptoKitties craze, the popularity of this NFT has dropped significantly. Here’s a chart from Google Trends that illustrates this point: 

Now, to be fair, CryptoKitties didn’t have the backing of a massive company like the NBA or all of the fandom and media attention that comes with it.

And Top Shot is already much more popular than its predecessor ever was.

Again, here’s Google Trends with the proof:

And, yes, Dapper Labs VP Caty Tedman has said that her company “learned a lot from CryptoKitties”, lessons which they are probably using to ensure Top Shot continues to outperform its precursor.

My point is that, while NBA Top Shot is definitely an exciting opportunity, be smart about whether or not it’s one you can afford to pursue at the moment.

NBA Top Shot: Hot or Flop?

I’m curious what other people think about this burgeoning blockchain platform.

Have you already bought a Top Shot moment?

If not, what would have to happen before you’d find the idea compelling?

Do you think this trend will continue its hot streak?

Or are you someone who believes it’s just another fad that’s bound to flop?

Let me know in the comment section. If anyone has direct experience with NBA Top Shot, I’ll consider updating the article with your insights.

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