Owning a sports team is a major dream for millions of fans, but it’s prohibitively expensive for most people. Blockchain-based games and sports, like Axie Infinity and Zed Run, are beginning to demonstrate how the metaverse might democratize access to team and player ownership, and allow fans to more deeply engage with the sports they love.
Fast Break Labs is a new project building out the Virtual Basketball Association (VBA): an ecosystem of fictional, unique basketball players that compete against each other on user-owned teams. The project’s core aim is to develop an innovative model for virtual sports team ownership that provides the status and economic benefits that sports fans want. Check out their Twitter here!
Basketball players in the VBA are NFTs, each with their own unique digital appearance, and rarity. Each player has several attributes that evolve over time. Users will also be able to name their players and eventually create backstories for them.
After purchasing players, GMs can compete against one another in weekly contests, which involve simulated basketball games between teams. Users can analyze statistics from each game, adjust their teams accordingly, and refine their teams by buying, selling, and trading players. In the future, users can also develop their virtual franchises by creating and upgrading arenas and wearing and selling merchandise supporting the teams they own.
Users can also earn financial rewards for participating in the VBA, by competing against each other and winning championships, selling the players they’ve trained, contributing to the ecosystem (i.e. building data tools), and more.
In the coming months, Fast Break Labs will hold its first sale of VBA players via Player Packs of 7 to allow aspiring GMs to build out their virtual teams. In Season0 (otherwise known as their playable alpha), GMs will be able to compete in weekly contests against other managers for Solana rewards.
As the VBA grows further, the project plans to release additional features to expand the ecosystem by creating new game modes and uses for their NFTs as well as adding strategic depth to the gameplay.
In sum, by enabling everyday users to own virtual basketball teams, develop and manage players, and reap financial rewards, Fast Break Labs offers an extremely compelling vision for how the metaverse can revolutionize the ownership, control, and economics of sports gaming.
Sports Team Ownership in the Metaverse
Millions of sports fans dream of one day owning a major league team, but for most, the costs to even become a partial owner are prohibitively expensive. When Mark Cuban purchased the Dallas Mavericks back in 2000, he bought the team at a whopping $280 million; today, the franchise is worth over $2.4 billion. There is also no efficient ‘liquidity’ for buying and selling stakes in a sports team, as most are only privately traded; within the NBA, the only two publicly listed franchises are the New York Knicks ($MSG) and the Toronto Raptors ($BCE).
To experience the degree of engagement and status that comes with sports team ownership, fans have instead deferred to playing virtual games like NBA 2K or drafting fantasy leagues. Though popular, these games are generally quite siloed, and rarely offer the financial returns comparable to what one might get out of true team ownership. Recent metaverse projects like Axie Infinity, where players build digital nations of “Axies” that compete with one another, and Zed Run, where players breed and race digital horses, have shown that virtual sports can be both highly-engaging and financially profitable. Applying a similar blockchain-based virtual model to other sports, like basketball, football, and more, is key to allowing more users to engage with these sports at a deeper level and to grow the metaverse’s ecosystem of virtual players and assets.
What is Fast Break Labs?
Fast Break Labs is a project building out the Virtual Basketball Association (VBA): an ecosystem of fictional, unique basketball players that compete against each other on user-owned teams. The project’s core aim is to develop an innovative model for virtual sports team ownership that provides the status and economic benefits that sports fans want. The team has raised a $6 million seed fund led by Pantera Capital and Patron, and is further backed by investors and advisors from Riot Games, Niantic, Solana, Soma Capital, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai’s family office, Blue Pool Capital, and more. You can check out their Twitter here.
How does it work?
Each player in the VBA is minted as an NFT, with a user-generated name and backstory, a unique appearance, and an assigned rarity. Players have attributes that evolve over time, and they eventually retire, just like a real-world basketball athlete. Players span a diversity of ethnicities and genders to ensure that all users feel included and represented within the ecosystem. Beyond the players, GMs can create and upgrade arenas for their teams, and can wear and sell merchandise to further personalize their teams.
Sample VBA Player
After purchasing or minting players for their teams, users can watch their teams compete with others in the league through detailed, play-by-play simulations of basketball games. Users can also analyze statistics from their games, strategically adjust their lineups, and refine their teams by buying, selling, and trading players on NFT marketplaces.
Users earn financial rewards for participating in the VBA in a variety of ways, including:
Winning games against other users
Selling players they’ve developed
Contributing to the ecosystem via data tools, writing, media, and more
What does the road forward look like?
In the coming weeks, Fast Break Labs will hold their first NFT sales where users can purchase player packs of 7 players each to kick off their VBA journey. In Season0, or their playable alpha stage, the VBA will host weekly contests where users play against one another and win prizes from the project’s treasury. Further down the line, the project will release additional features such as new game modes, enhanced strategic decision making, and other VBA assets like courts, player gear, and more.
Fast Break Labs also hopes to build out a substantial digital and real-world presence for the VBA, through social media followings for its virtual players, livestreams of the simulated basketball games, etc.
Today, basketball has become the third most popular sport across the world, with over 2 billion fans globally. Unfortunately, most fans can only engage with the sport in basic ways, like watching matches, buying merchandise, or playing video games like 2K where they have minimal control and ownership over their in-game experience.
Fast Break Labs changes all that by recreating basketball as a sports video game with real-world stakes. Through the VBA, everyday users are able to own their own basketball teams, compete against one another, develop their franchises through arenas and merchandise, and reap the immense economic rewards of sports team ownership. As the project evolves, users will be able to participate in the VBA in many other ways than just being a team owner or fan, making metaverse basketball a highly engaging, profitable, and visible game for basketball fans around the world. In sum, Fast Break Labs presents an extremely compelling vision for how the metaverse can revolutionize the ownership, control, and economics of sports gaming.
- Paul Veradittakit
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Hi, I’m Paul Veradittakit, a Partner at Pantera Capital, one of the oldest and largest institutional investors focused on investing in blockchain companies and cryptocurrencies. I’ve been in the industry since 2014, and the firm invests in equity, early stage token projects, and liquid cryptocurrencies on exchanges. I focus on early-stage investments and share my thoughts on what’s going on in the industry in this weekly newsletter.