The History of NBA Top Shot: Past, Present, and Future of NBA NFTs

The History of NBA Top Shot: Past, Present, and Future of NBA NFTs

by Clegainz


The history of NBA Top Shot has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least — as it may be for any new tech. From the earliest days of its inception as the NBA NFT, the explosion in February 2021, to the new Kevin Durant partnership to start 2022. 

Community sentiment over the past year has seen some incredible highs and lows, but the controversy surrounding the new hybrid pack structure has caused a unique split amongst collectors.

There are many people out there like myself with their own ideas as to what should be done moving forward, after spending hours upon hours in the community. But first, let’s start with a recap of Top Shot on how we got to this point.

The Beginning of NBA Top Shot

June 2020  —  NBA Top Shot’s closed beta began with a handful of lucky collectors who signed up to participate. While it’s fun to daydream about joining during its earliest days, it’s important to keep in mind that hindsight is 20/20. I reached out to a few collectors that were active during this time to get a better understanding of the landscape during Series 1. 

This may not come as a surprise, but many early adopters had extreme doubts about the future of Top Shot and took a big risk by diving into a product that contained far more unknowns than certainties. There were constant bugs and the site was down for unscheduled maintenance more frequently than not. 

Maintenance mode on NBA Top Shot

There was no roadmap. No Marketplace. No Collector Score. No queues.

That’s right, there was no queue system for packs — just pure chaotic scrambling of users rushing to go and purchase. Believe it or not, the queue did not become part of the system until the second week of February 2021, which just so happens to be when the majority of today’s current collectors discovered it’s existence (myself included).

Pack drop announcements would come what felt sporadically and many times out of the blue. Community Reps would ping the Top Shot Discord at random times to let collectors know a drop was about to occur  —  a far contrast to the frequent blog posts and roadmap we have today.

Series 1 Top Shot Packs

While there was some demand and general excitement around pack drops from the early NFT and crypto crowd, many packs did not sell out immediately. Some didn’t sell out at all. Although users had the ability to purchase multiple, packs would still sit on sale for days, until Dapper would eventually decided to take them down. This is part of the reason as to why we’ve seen Eastern and Western Conference Moments burned, and why also why we have Series 1 Reserve packs today.

The pack content list we all know and love did not exist during this time, so collectors who were willing to purchase packs were doing so blindly. Yup — collectors had essentially no clue what was possibly inside the packs they were about to purchase, and did not discover the contents until after opening.

Another thing to note is that in today’s environment, Moments are minted and then shuffled into packs before a drop. During this time in Series 1, they were minted in sequential order and then released into packs, meaning ‘Release 1′ of a certain set would contain the lowest serial numbers. 

A good example of this would be how the Eastern Conference Finals drop came before the Western Conference Finals drop. The Base Set Moments within the ECF packs had lower mint counts than the WCF packs, although they both contained the same Base Set Moments. There were also no mint caps on many of the Series 1 Base Moments, which is why we see so many obscure Series 1 mint counts.

NBA Top Shot Series 1 Base Set Moments
NBA Top Shot Series 1 Base Set Moments

The State of the Top Shot Community

Shortly after the Marketplace went live in August 2020, Dapper assigned “Volunteer Moderator” roles to some of the more active and trusted collectors due to staff shortages. They would mainly help answer general questions and facilitate trades between collectors through a series of #buy, #sell, and #trade channels. After receiving funding in early 2021, Dapper hired more full-time team members, and the volunteer mods were relieved of their duties. 

Imagining this scenario today would simply be an impossible task in a Discord with 200,000+ people from around the world.

During the early days of the Marketplace — which didn’t exist when Top Shot started — Series 1 Moments were nowhere near the prices they are today. Outside of star players, most Moments could be found near the $1 range, and some did not sell at all. Of course, much of this was due to the fact that there was nowhere near the amount of collectors or sales volume that we have now.

Purchasing on the marketplace was also a risk, because there was very little information shown as to how many Moments were in the hands of collectors, for sale, hidden in packs, or unavailable for purchase. Today, this information is infinitely more clear, as we can see how many are for sale or in packs, who owns specific serial numbers, and which serials are still in packs.

Moment Details on NBA Top Shot Website
Example: Cole Anthony Metallic Gold LE (Series 3) Rare #/749

Towards the end of Series 1, many collectors were frustrated with the lack of communication from the Dapper team, and little to no information on mint caps. Many felt it was hard to make purchase decisions when they did not know the true supply of the Moments being released. Doubts surrounding supply constraints and botched pack drops lead to some early adopters liquidating their accounts for pennies on the dollar and leaving entirely.

However, as crypto began to grow more popular in 2021, more and more users were exposed to NFTs. NBA Top Shot became the first avenue for many who were just learning the ropes in this space.

With some big investments into Dapper Labs from multiple professional athletes, and a massive partnership involving Tyler Herro, the platform was gearing up for what would soon become the largest Marketplace and new user spike to date.

Top Shot’s Series 2 Explosion

“Explosion” is the best word which can describe what happened on Top Shot in February 2021. The number of Marketplace transactions soared upwards of 10 times their usual amount, and the number of new users pouring into the ecosystem each day was out of control.

People were buying Moments one day and selling them for five times as much the next, if not more. It was a ticking time bomb  —  the extreme volatility would not survive forever.

Sure enough, the bubble eventually popped. Some made out extremely well and saw financial returns others can only dream of, especially early adopters who had been there since the beginning. Others were not so lucky. Many users experienced major losses, and are still kicking themselves for purchases they made that month during all the hype.

NBA Top Shot Series 2 and Series 3 History

If you joined during this explosion time like myself, you’ve seen a lot happen since then. I’ve combed through every blog post and Discord announcement I could find and summarized the majority of it all below:

February-March 2021: Marketplace Boom, Cool Cats Master Challenge, Introduction of the queue system, The Gift, Rising Stars Reveal, Moment Badges Activated

April-June 2021: Trade Tickets & Series 1 Reserve Packs Announced, Collector Score Implemented, KYC and anti-bot measurement enforced, Moment Tracker (Held, For Sale, Hidden in Packs) added, Showcase Quests, Base Set edition increase to 35-40K from 15K max, MomentRanks Play goes live

July-August 2021: NBA Finals Access Unlocked promo, NBA Draft Unlocked promo, NBA Summer League & Fandom Moments, Nine Lives Lounge created, Introduction of WNBA on Top Shot

September-October 2021: NBA Top Shot Takeover (Bucks Ring Ceremony), Run It Back 05–06 & Archive Set, KD’s NBA Top Shot account discovered, WNBA Finals unlocked & Legendary Drop, Dwyane Wade partnership, Series 3 Roadmap, NFLxDapper (NFL All Day) announced, MomentRanks Play x Dapper collab for $10,000 in prizes every week

November-December 2021: First Drop of Series 3 (Base Set), First Series 3 Flash Challenge & more, First S1 Reserve Pack Drop, NFL All Day Closed Beta launches, Burning ECF & WCF Moments, first Fresh Threads drops, Access Unlocked: Christmas Day Games promo, S3 MGLE and Deck The Hoops, Metallic Silver FE announced, 2022: The Road Ahead, Community Gift Back (rake back), Team Leaderboard announced, Tiered Challenge: Christmas Day (Easy, Medium, Hard)  

January 2022: Flash Challenges multiple times per week, Series 3 Hustle & Show drops, Dapper hires from within the Top Shot Community (Packrip, Brandon Sowle, Blockchain Steve), UFC Strike NFT launches, Kevin Durant becomes the face of NBA Top Shot  with KD starter pack, new KD commercial, MGLE Drop 2 & Holo Icon Drop 1

February 2022: KD Game Recognize Game Packs Announced — New hybrid packs containing different levels of rarity ranging from common 60K Moments to legendary Moments minted #/99. 

The above list doesn’t show the countless other back-end updates to the site, including deposit/withdrawal access, as well as multiple security and performance enhancements. Not to mention the third-party tools that now exist to check our account valuations and track marketplace movement.

The team at Dapper Labs have done a great job getting us to this point, especially when you consider that this platform is the first of its kind. People forget that the public beta has been around barely over a year, and more than 1.1 million registered users have joined with very little paid marketing — no easy task.

Today on NBA Top Shot

We’ve entered February 2022 and most collectors are celebrating their one year anniversaries. Kevin Durant is the new face of Top Shot, curating his own set and providing commentary on the new Game Recognize Game Moments.

Kevin Durant NFT on NBA Top Shot
Kevin Durant promo on NBA Top Shot

Collectors new and old now have a shot at pulling Rare or Legendary Moments from $19 & $49 packs  —  something collectors were looking forward to for months, which previously seemed impossible due to certain loot box laws

Daily Flash Challenges have completely taken over the community and collectors both big and small seem to love them. More users have become closer to the game than ever, and are being rewarded for following the NBA season. For a while there, it really seemed like Top Shot was at an all-time high from a community sentiment perspective.

Hybrid Packs Impact on Top Shot

Sure enough, many collectors’ high hopes and excitement were quickly turned to feelings of confusion and distrust after the first-ever hybrid pack drop had a bug which allocated packs with Legendary Moments towards the end of the queue

To sum it up, only collectors towards the back of the line had a shot at the limited number of legendary Moments in the drop. It was still “random” in that your queue number was assigned randomly, but collectors who were able to purchase multiple packs at the end of the line unknowingly had an advantage versus everyone else.

Dapper was quick to respond by refunding everyone who participated in the drop. They also posted a blog breaking down exactly what went wrong with the randomization tool, along with assurances it would be fixed going forward.

Thankfully, the randomization issues have been resolved, but now the number of packs being released and low odds to land either a Rare or Legendary Moment has split community sentiment. Some collectors absolutely love the new hybrid pack structure, but the rest are at the opposite end of the spectrum and want a return to old packs.

While I would argue these new packs are great for new collectors in that they do not require a high Collector Score for chance at more exclusive Moments, I can see how the price point and low odds of landing these big-ticket Moments is a pain point for many.

NBA Top Shot Packs Odds - Standard and Elite Hybrid Packs
NBA Top Shot Standard & Elite “Hybrid” Pack Structure and Odds

Luckily for us, Dapper has made it clear that the month of February will be a “testing period” for this new pack structure. We can only hope that they will take the collective community feedback and make buying packs an enjoyable experience for everyone again.

Since the beginning of Series 3, we’ve seen our fair share of ups and downs; QA issues with challenges, pack drop issues, and less than stellar communication from the team. Could this have to do with a lack of staff, or focus on too many projects at once? Maybe a mix of both. Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou himself admitted that they need to do a better job with quality control, and that they are actively looking to hire more people to their team to do this.

Have things gotten better? Certainly  —  but this community has seen countless “road bumps” along the way, and issues surrounding the first pack drop curated by Kevin Durant himself have led many collectors to voice their opinions louder than ever.

The Future of NBA Top Shot

So, where do we go from here?

For those of you that have followed me for a while, you’ll know I am a strong believer in NBA Top Shot and the team at Dapper Labs. Something that really helped solidify my beliefs was the office hours that Roham led back in November. The team has delivered on a number of promises; ranging from the community gift back in Dapper Balance, new and improved marketplace and collection features, daily utility with Flash Challenges, supply and scarcity promises in the roadmap, team leaderboards, and more.

While the Top Shot team has done a ton of great work, that does not mean they won’t be held accountable when things go wrong. While continuing to grow the user-base and marketing to the masses is important, keeping the trust of the existing community should be their number one priority. Trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose.

That said, it does need to be acknowledged how far the platform has come, and how we have grown as a community. The purpose of this blog is not only to enlighten those who are new, but also to serve as a reminder for those of us who have been here since the early days. 

What’s Coming to Top Shot?

We still have so much more to look forward to: bidding feature, mobile app, prepay in queue for packs, Hardcourt (wen hardcourt lol), utility for complete team set holders, and plenty of other surprises we don’t even know about.

During All-Star Weekend, we saw a first-look at NBA Top Shot being promoted during live NBA games. Multiple QR codes were aired promoting Top Shot and a chance at a 1/1 NBA NFT giving one lucky collector access to the next 5 All-Star Weekend events with VIP treatment included. Jalen Green even pulled out a gold chain with his own Moment attached to it (similar to what we saw UFC Strike do). 

While this years’ All-Star weekend may not have been the most spectacular compared to recent years, it was amazing to see some Top Shot marketing come to life and being put to use.

It’s only a matter of time before the NBA on TNT crew will debate which Moments they want to see minted, and maybe even collect themselves. We’ll see the Top Shot logo on court, on the jumbotron, and during commercials. It seems to be heading that direction.

The Kevin Durant promo video wasn’t shot with film-quality equipment for no reason.

I can envision Flash Challenges being covered on live TV with a running leaderboard that’s updated as the games are happening. It could even be an add-on for existing League Pass subscriptions, which could be a free form of utility based on team-set completion.

More and more NBA stars will likely join the ranks to help promote the project and continue to engage with collectors and fans from all over the world. NBA Top Shot in-arena minting will make a comeback to different arenas throughout the country, and will be used to help educate and onboard new collectors. 

To me, the possibilities of what the Dapper Team can do with their relationship with the NBA seem endless.

Whatever the future holds, I wish you all the best of luck in your collecting journey. I hope your packs are filled with low serials and rookie Moments.

See you all on the other side of beta, whenever that may be.

Follow Clegainz on Twitter: @clegainz