Dapper Labs won last night’s 2022 Sports Business Award for Best in Sports Technology as it led the popularization of non-fungible tokens through its landmark NBA Top Shot product release. Many of the NFTs sold for astronomical sums, including a LeBron James dunk that netted $387,000.
Following the success of Top Shot, Dapper Labs struck partnerships with the NFL, UFC and more. The company raised more than $550 million last year at a $7.6 billion valuation.
“We want to thank our friends at the NBA, because they had a vision with us a long time ago when nobody knew what an NFT was, what Web3 was, what blockchain is,” Dapper Labs VP for basketball partnerships Juan De Jesus said in his acceptance speech at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
Many of the core team members at Dapper Labs, including founder and CEO Roham Gharegozlou, had initially developed and released CryptoKitties, a blockchain-based game in late 2017. While that had some success, the crypto market turned down soon thereafter—so Dapper was building Top Shot during what head of partnerships Caty Tedman called “a dark stretch.”
“We were building in a period where there was some skepticism about crypto, where there’s some skepticism about mainstream adoption of the technology, where there were a lot of people who wanted to be an arm’s length from it,” she said in an interview.
Last spring, the headlines started pouring in. To date, there have been 25 million sales across all their digital collectibles products. Dapper Labs, and especially NBA Top Shot, became synonymous with the NFT market and was embraced by the players themselves.
“I love that it resonates with [the athletes], as well,” Tedman said. “The concept of someone in a press conference saying, ‘What I did tonight, that was a Top Shot’—that kind of thing is exactly what we hoped would happen, but it gives me goosebumps even today.”