Chris Webber on partnering with a tech company to 'disrupt' the sports and entertainment NFT space, and the ongoing legacy of Michigan basketball

Chris Webber, Ray Jackson
Chris Webber.Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • NBA Hall of Famer Chris Webber spoke to Insider in an interview tied to his new partnership with the tech company Coinllectibles.

  • As president of Coinllectibles Sports, Webber will oversee the company's push into the marketplace for sports and entertainment NFTs.

  • In the interview, Webber discussed his plans for the role in relation to Michigan basketball, NIL, and his past work with hip-hop legend Nas.

On Wednesday, NBA Hall of Famer and entrepreneur Chris Webber announced a new partnership with the technology company Coinllectibles that will see him leading the company's push into the sports and entertainment NFT space.

In a Zoom interview with Insider on Wednesday, Webber discussed how the company plans to use its proprietary Digital Ownership Token (DOT) technology and the metaverse to bring fans, athletes, and entertainers together in "experiences." On March 28, Webber and Coinllectibles will launch with a University of Michigan DOT collection related to the Fab Five member's experience at the school.

In the interview, Webber detailed his plans for the role in relation to questions about Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) statutes and his music production work for hip-hop legend Nas. Ahead of Michigan basketball's Sweet Sixteen matchup with Villanova on Thursday, Webber also discussed Juwan Howard's college coaching tenure and the "underdog" success of Michigan's season.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How have you viewed the NFT space leading into this partnership? What drew you to it?

Well, I think what drew it to me is that I love art, first of all. I have a collection that I've collected, artifacts from across the world, as far as the narrative of Black history collections and things of that sort. And so, really what drew me to this space is, one, just the fact of the uniqueness of art and the fact that it can't be plagiarized or duplicated. Also the fact that, with sports, it's so unique, 'cause as a collector, not only do you want to collect, say, athletes' shoes, but you love to have that experience, and being an athlete myself, having had many experiences with fans across the country, I felt it was just a great place to come together and kinda change the way that the game is played, not only with NFTs, but kinda that interaction within the smart contract.

There's a dope, full circle aspect to this partnership launching with a Michigan collection. How did you decide on and approach that as the initial drop?

You know, I thought that I really had to put my energy, my money, and my time where my mouth is. We have a great roster of athletes, of entertainers. And so, not only did I want to embrace this position as president, but I wanted to embrace the position as an athlete. So, in dropping my first NFT, I thought that it'd be great, being that it's this time of month, that March Madness I'm so familiar with, had some wonderful times, the best of highs and lows in my career, to really start it with that. And then maybe later share some of my high school and pro experiences as well. But really, it's a wonderful time of year. I love watching the games. The underdog is king right now. So we wanted to embrace that coming into this new game, disrupting it. And I felt it was nothing better than to start with my collection and hopefully include a couple of guys from the Five.

fab 5
The Fab Five: Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Ray Jackson.AP

From your vantage point, moving forward, what do you see in the trajectory of NIL in the coming years, from just a broad standpoint and from your position as president here?

Well, John, I mean, if you look at it right now, there's contracts with players or there's players that have received certain NIL contracts in which they've made millions of dollars and haven't even played a game yet. So where are we gonna end up? I don't even know. I mean, we're not even a full 24 months in on this. So who knows. But I'll tell you what, having been a player affected by it, not being able to use your name and likeness, having been a player that has seen my friends and other families get affected by it, I'm very happy to be on this side of it. And so, what's wonderful about the metaverse is your jumpshot ... well, your jumpshot never gets old in real life. But in the metaverse, it can bring athletes together and we can respect all levels of their development, whether it's a player that's actively playing, whether it's a great player like a Kareem, one of the greatest of all times, or whether it's a guy coming in off high school that we know is gonna be awesome. So as an ex athlete, as someone that still is a parent, someone that is still in this sporting world, I'm really happy that not only can I be in a situation that really does a lot and is disruptive in this market, but also know that we're part of the change by definitely giving contracts at all levels.

You've said Juwan Howard recruited you to Michigan. What's your perspective on his coaching job in navigating this season to where it's at?

Well, I think Juwan has done a great job. Every year he's at been Michigan, his team has made it to the tournament. He has a wonderful IQ. He knows the nuances of the game, when to speed it up, when to slow it down, how to make adjustments. So I'm really not surprised at his success because I know he is a hard worker. And so, being one of my closest friends, I'm just really proud of him. And I think he's done a great job. But, you know, he would tell you, I would tell you, it doesn't matter what you've done yesterday. What are we gonna do tomorrow? So that's the best part about him too is that, you saw us celebrating, you saw us enjoying the moment, because that's what you have to do, but I guarantee you when he got off the plane, it was business as usual. "Forget that. Let's get to the next thing." And so, I know his guys are gonna be ready.

You know, prior to getting on here, I was out here at this corporate office playing "Surviving the Times" at a disruptive volume. You were on your Eric B., Scott La Rock sh-t on that. What a track, man.

Ah, man. Dang. Thank you, brother. You know, man, that means a lot. I'm a hip-hop head. And the fact that, you know, Nasir Jones, one of the greatest artists of all time, not just rappers, you know that, but one of the greatest artists to walk the face of this earth, went and allowed me to make two tracks for him was something that's really special. He knew my love for music and how I get down in the studio. And it was a honor. And so, yeah, hopefully as well, I know that I'm bringing some of our music partners, but also some of my own kind of beats. This is a great outlet, as far as NFT and smart contracts. And we're gonna allow every athlete to bring all their passions and experiences to the experience, which to me is better for the fan. Don't you wanna enjoy what the athlete enjoys? Trust me, you gon' have a lot more fun than just keeping it corporate, like some may think it is. Let the athlete bring you into his world with some experiences, and we'll have a lot of fun. So maybe me and you, we get together, we can play some of his songs and have a drink and hang out for a sec. [Laugh].

chris webber
Zoom; Insider

Hell yeah. [Laugh]. Do you and Nas stay in touch at all? I know Nas is into crypto. Do y'all stay in touch, talk about the prospects of blockchain technology at all?

No, I haven't talked to Nas about that. I know that he's a leader in any industry he chooses. He's one of the smartest individuals I've ever met, so when I saw what he was doing, I thought it was awesome and we're already aligned in thought, and things like that. So, just laughed at how we was doing the same thing. But nah, he's doing his thing. He's the man. So, nah, we haven't spoken about it, but usually anything he touch turns to golden. So it was fun watching the whole process of what he's doing, and we look to do the same.

Does the prospect of affiliating with the entertainment world through this role have you thinking about music at all, in how it translates to the space? You know, personally, I think the culture needs some more Chris Webber production, but that's just my view.

[Laugh]. Well, I tell you what, I love music, and I think it's in great hands, but you tell me, what brings people together like music and sport? You know, I don't know of anything. And so, being a galvanizer and wanting to make sure that you have such a diverse group of people from everywhere, to me, it's nothing better than sports and music. And so that's what's so fun about this collaboration at Coinllectible Sports is that we're gonna bring that world to the NFT space. And that's how we plan to disrupt it. Not only by setting a gold standard through our DOT collection and through other things, but really setting the standard through experiences. And that's because we have a personal knowledge of what the athletes, what entertainers like, and we plan to make sure that we service the fan with that. So, yeah, man, I thought about music. My mother's a music teacher. My kids are now taking piano lessons. I wake them up every morning with, you know, all different types of songs. Music is a big part of my life. I don't know how anyone can live without music. And since it's the greatest galvanizer, we have to put that with sports as well. And we're definitely gonna have fun with some crossplay between sports and entertainment.

What do you think about this match up with Villanova?

Well, uh, I think Villanova ... I mean, I love their coach. They have a great coach. Villanova has a great, historic program, and we're the underdogs. We got a handful. I would say conventional wisdom says Villanova is gonna win, but I don't really mess with conventional wisdom. You know, we get down with heart, we get down with, you know, "You have to play us right now." And so, we know we have to earn it, and you have to beat the best. So, they're one of the best, and it's gonna be a great game, but I'm looking forward to us with the momentum that we have, and our big fella play, with the leadership of our guards, with our coaching on all levels. You know, we're about to go keep shocking world. So, we gonna go win this.

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