The WNBA is entering the NFT game.
Months after the digital collectibles space saw an increase in popularity thanks to the rise of NBA Top Shot, Dapper Labs, the company behind the "moments" – officially licensed highlights that collectors own on the Flow blockchain – announced with the WNBA and the Players' Association on Wednesday the integration of WNBA moments.
“The players drove this,” WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson told USA TODAY Sports.
Once the NBA Top Shot explosion occurred around late February, the WNBA players took notice.
“They were like, ‘What are we doing? Are we talking Top Shot for us? What does that look like and when?’” Jackson said.
Dapper had the WNBA in mind all along, although NBA Top Shot became an all-consuming project.
"I think when we started down the path of Top Shot, I had always hoped that we would incorporate the ‘W’ in a meaningful way," said Caty Tedman, the company's director of brand partnerships. "I think we’re doing that. Our aim is to have parity in the men’s game, so it’s not to like have the ‘W’ be this thing off on the side, it’s to have it integrated, and we’re finally taking the first steps to get there."
At first, WNBA moments will exist under the existing Top Shot umbrella, but the ultimate goal is to create its own dedicated environment. That means WNBA and NBA moments will exist in the a user's singular collection.
The WNBA was one of the few sports leagues to experience viewership increases in the pandemic. It's that growth potential that makes league executives bullish on the success of WNBA moments on the Top Shot platform.
“There’s just a huge appetite for the WNBA in general and we have a real mix of our longstanding fans as well as our fans who have recently discovered the 'W,'” WNBA chief operating officer Christy Hedgpeth told USA TODAY Sports. “So our focus is really on engaging those fans with this product, and I’m sure that the collectors will see it as well.”
Moments will include the best plays from this season, along with some historical content to honor the league’s greats as the league finishes its 25th season. Current moments that will be available in the first pack drop this Friday (fans can register for guaranteed packs starting Wednesday) include a Britney Griner dunk and a Sabrina Ionescu game-winning 3-pointer.
Different pack drops will have varying levels of scarcity, as NBA Top Shot does, Tedman said. Challenges and rewards will be created for WNBA moments. Fans can have a say in the next mints by using #WNBATopShotThis on social media.
Like its men's league counterpart, the WNBA is constantly seeking new ways to engage with fans and, therefore, maximize revenue. It's what led the leagues to Dapper in the first place and fuels the innovations behind non-fungible tokens in sports.
"We just see this opportunity to both serve WNBA fans the way they deserve to be served and also try to attract new collectors into NBA Top Shot through injecting new and really cool content," Tedman said.
For example, NBA associate vice president for global partnerships Adrienne O'Keefe said the league conducted a test at Summer League games in Las Vegas that allowed fans in attendance to purchase a moment from that game as a way to enhance the in-arena experience.
“Even before launching Top Shot we believed in NFTs and blockchain technology and its potential to impact the business,” O'Keefe told USA TODAY Sports.
As Jackson wrapped her mind around the NFT space, the players were way ahead of her, she said. They wanted a better understanding of the union's group licensing rights and how it could lead to more money in the players' pockets.
"That made me just go to OneTeam (the sponsorship and licensing company that advises the WNBPA on NFT strategy) and say, ‘All right, if you were moving on this, you now need to move a little faster,’" Jackson said.
To educate the players about the licensing agreements, they started at the beginning. Jackson used her background as the former director of law, policy and governance at the NCAA to talk about using all 144 voices in the same direction.
Reigning MVP A'ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces) and retired star Lisa Leslie are the first WNBA moments ambassadors and helped make the union's sell to the players easier.
“With A’ja coming on board and really being excited about it, that really helps, that really opens the door for other players to kind of look through and see the opportunities that may be waiting for them,” Jackson said.
And now the WNBA is on the blockchain. It might not sound like a big deal, but as Hedgpeth said:
“Being integrated into Top Shot is just another signal that the WNBA is reaching more cultural relevance.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFT collectibles: WNBA moments coming to NBA Top Shot