Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives to the basket against Boston Celtics guard … [+] Marcus Smart (36) during Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals in San Francisco, Sunday, June 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have struck a deal with Sorare to create the league’s first NFT-based fantasy game.
Sorare, a fantasy sports and NFT trading platform valued last year at $4.3 billion, earlier this year formed similar partnerships with Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. Those marked the company’s entrance into the U.S. market. Sorare also has licenses with more than 280 international soccer clubs in top leagues such as Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A.
Sorare is aiming to launch the NBA game around the league’s regular season opener on Oct. 18.
The NBA received an equity stake in Sorare as part of the deal, but other details were not disclosed. Major League Baseball also has an equity stake in Sorare as part of its deal that was announced in May.
“The way I would describe (the NBA partnership) is we are both very motivated to grow together and to make this as successful and broad and big as possible,” said Ryan Spoon, Sorare’s chief operating officer and a former executive at ESPN and BetMGM. “That’s in all of our interests.”
Said Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s senior vice president and head of gaming and new business ventures: “We know Sorare is making an investment to build out this platform. This is a new fan experience, so we want to make sure there’s sufficient time to build the product and the community and the fan base. It’s a multi-year partnership with enough time to build a sustainable partnership here.”
The Sorare NBA game will be free to play for anyone who’s at least 18 years old. Participants will create teams based on the NFTs/cards of individual players. They will earn points based on how their players perform on the court in NBA games.
“This (deal) is an interesting hybrid in that it’s an overlap between the fantasy sports space and the Web3 and blockchain space,” Kaufman-Ross said. “Sorare sits at the intersection of two interesting trends – Web3 and fantasy. The notion of creating a new form of fantasy basketball which drives real engagement with our game and also taps into Web3 is a great opportunity for our fans.”
The NBA and NBPA, its players union, are familiar with fantasy sports and NFTs as separate categories. Most notably, they partnered with Dapper Labs in 2019 to develop NBA Top Shot, an NFT marketplace that became popular last year as NBA fans and speculators flooded the marketplace.
In February 2021, there were a record $224.1 million of sales for a record $181.81 average sale on the NBA Top Shot marketplace, according to CryptoSlam, but that has declined significantly. Last month, there were just over $1 million in NBA Top Shot sales for a $24 average, down from $37.5 million and $45.01 in August 2021.
The NBA and NBPA see Sorare as an alternative to NBA Top Shot and not as a competitor because Sorare has a fantasy game element.
“We were looking for new ways to enter into the fantasy category,” said Josh Goodstadt, executive vice president of licensing at THINK450, the NBPA’s marketing and licensing subsidiary. “We evaluated at least a dozen opportunities. For us, what we wanted to do was find something that differentiates itself from NBA Top Shot….We felt with Sorare’s track record of success, being leaders in the Web3 space, they just made the most sense for us to partner with.”
Sorare was founded in France in 2018 by Nicolas Julia and Adrien Montfort, who worked together at Stratumn, a Paris-based financial technology company. Sorare raised $50 million in a Series A funding round in February 2021 and $680 million in a Series B round in September 2021 that valued the company at a $4.3 billion valuation.
SoftBank, a Japanese conglomerate, led Sorare’s Series B round, which was the largest ever for a European startup. Sorare’s other investors include notable venture capital firms such as Benchmark, Accel, D1 Capital, Bessemer Ventures and Seven Seven Six, which is led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
Sorare claims it has two million registered users in 185 countries, of which about 20% are in the U.S. The company has expanded its U.S. presence since late last year with the hires of Spoon and other executives and employees. Spoon has strong relationships with the U.S. professional sports leagues from his time at ESPN, where he was senior vice president of digital and social, and BetMGM, where he was chief operating officer. The company expects to expand in the U.S. and abroad.
“What I think about every day is we have a big, robust game today that has a big community, a global community,” Spoon said. “The starting part there was and is soccer. The priority is to keep growing and deepening the community, the usage, the game play. I think this (NBA partnership) fits very nicely with having other great leagues and players.”


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