The National Basketball Association (NBA) will partner Ant Group – Chinese tech giant Alibaba’s fintech affiliate – to issue NBA-themed non-fungible tokens (NFT) and create content.

Fast facts

  • The collaboration will bring NBA’s fan engagement into the virtual space in China, according to a Tuesday announcement by NBA China, the basketball league’s Chinese business arm.
  • As part of the partnership, NBA has launched a mini-app on Alipay – Ant Group’s flagship mobile app and China’s largest third-party payment platform – where fans can watch NBA video content and access services such as a joint membership of NBA and Alipay.
  • NBA has been at the forefront of integrating Web3 technology into its business model. NBA Top Shot, an NFT collection launched by Dapper Labs in a partnership with NBA in 2020, is the seventh largest NFT collection by all-time trading volume, according to NFT aggregation site CryptoSlam.
  • NBA’s Web3 venture did not end with NFT collectibles. In September 2022, NBA entered a partnership with blockchain gaming company Sorare to launch Sorare NBA, an Ethereum-based game where players can win, trade, and play with NFT basketball cards. On Feb.6, the platform saw an NFT of Giannis Antetokounmpo sold for a record-breaking price of over US$187,000 ETH.
  • Ant Group entered the NFT space in 2021 and oversaw the sale of NFTs – or “digital collectibles” in mainland China – on Alipay, and collaborated with the NBA in 2022 to issue Lunar New Year-themed digital collectibles in China.
  • Since China broadcasted an NBA game for the first time in 1987, the NBA has been one of the most popular foreign sporting groups in China, with over 170 million fans across Chinese social media, according to NBA China. 
  • See related article: Judge denies Dapper Labs request to dismiss NBA Top Shot security lawsuit