How LaMelo Ball’s Chainlink-Powered NFTs Are Redefining the Player-Fan Experience

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have exploded in popularity over the past year, bringing forth a new paradigm of digital ownership. A multitude of NFT projects have sprung up to offer buyers unequivocal ownership of digital items such as art and in-game items, with users able to buy, sell, or transfer NFTs through online markets. Popular digital art collections CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), as well as NFT marketplace OpenSea, are at the forefront of this phenomenon. NFT gaming platforms such as Axie Infinity have also gone from strength to strength.

A graph showing daily user growth for Opensea
Opensea—the largest NFT platform currently on the market—has seen exponential growth in daily users over the past year.

The NFT economy also provides fertile ground for innovation beyond digital art and gaming. Dynamic NFTs (dNFTs)—NFTs that use off-chain data and computation to automatically trigger novel outcomes—have recently risen to the public spotlight. Able to adapt in response to real-world events, dNFTs unlock a huge range of potential use cases. One area that is already gaining significant traction is dNFTs’ role in enhancing the relationship between public figures and their fanbases, powering new forms of engagement and gamified fan rewards.

In this post, we’ll explore how the team behind LaMelo’s dNFTs is using Chainlink to push the boundaries of what a fan-athlete relationship means. 

Introducing Dynamic LaMelo Ball NFTs

Last year, Playground Studios launched LaMelo Ball Collectibles with the help of Galaxis’ NFT platform. LaMelo Ball Collectibles are the official dNFT collection for the 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year, LaMelo Ball.

In the weeks before the ‘21 NBA Rookie of the Year Award announcement, fans minted 8,070 Dynamic NFTs split into four different tiers, with each tier tied to a specific aspect of LaMelo Ball’s real-world career or in-game performance measured by statistical data. 

A Fan Ecosystem Tied to LaMelo’s Career 

After each game, LaMelo’s in-game stats are brought on-chain to power the fan experience connected to dNFT ownership. These stats are sourced from Chainlink Sports Data Feeds, which provide a verifiable, trusted source of tamper-proof data. Through the issuance of tokens, collectors can choose which element of LaMelo’s talent they want to collect—“Red Mars” is tied to Melo’s points, “Blue Neptune” updates with his steals, “Silver Moon” records his assists, and “Gold Evolve” records all three of these stats.  Additionally, LaMelo expanded his NFT series in February 2022 by dropping four new NFTs, two of which are stat-based NFTs that include rebounds and blocks, respectively. 

The other two are the 2022 Rising Stars NFT and the All-Star Debut NFT. Because LaMelo was drafted for both the 2022 Rising Stars challenge and the All-Star Debut game, these NFTs—the rarest NFTs of the four—immortalize this monumental achievement for his career. Much like the Gold Evolve, these NFTs track the star’s full stat-line during these exciting matches. 

It’s important to note that these NFTs aren’t just one-and-done deals. All of LaMelo’s NFTs give their holders the chance to receive future redeemable rewards.

Incorporating on-chain sports data into NFTs allows for almost limitless customizations, gamification, and interactive NFT-owning experiences. Some examples of what’s possible include:

  • Changing avatars—if a player scores more than 1000 points in a single season, specific NFT avatars could transform to reflect this. 
  • Prediction games—NFT owners could place predictions on particular outcomes, such as exactly how many points a player will score in a season. The NFT owner who guesses closest to the exact number could have their NFT avatar evolve.
  • Redeemable real-world items—redeemable NFT traits could be added to individual NFTs, corresponding to real-world rewards such as a player’s in-game basketball shoes or front-row game tickets. These traits would act as an immutable IOU that can be redeemed, transferred, or sold.
  • Fantasy leagues—dynamic NFTs could act as accounts that offer access to athlete-led fantasy sports leagues. There could be thresholds for NFTs to join based on their traits, and competition could catalyze positive or negative changes to NFT avatars based on their owners’ performance 
  • Fan loyalty rewards—NFTs could dynamically change or include redeemable traits based on fan loyalty metrics, such as attending games, buying player-specific merch, and more. 

By combining player statistics and off-chain rewards in dynamically changing NFTs, LaMelo Ball fans don’t just own a static digital object, they own an evolving token that grants access to a whole ecosystem of games, experiences, rewards, and more. In addition to following an athlete’s career on social media platforms, fans can invest in an athlete’s journey from start to finish, and reap rewards for their loyalty directly from the athlete. 

From Saturn to Sun: The Gold Evolve dNFT 

While all these NFTs dynamically incorporate in-game statistics, the Gold Evolve dNFTs came with a unique promise: If LaMelo Ball won Rookie of the Year for the 2020-2021 NBA season, the art on the NFT would evolve to reflect this achievement. 

When LaMelo Ball was named Rookie of the Year, the art — designed by Yeezy collaborator @law_degree—updated from an off-white LaMelo grasping the planet Saturn to a golden LaMelo grasping the Sun. 

Empowering Public Figures With Event-Based Dynamic NFTs

The example set by LaMelo Ball NFTs is paving the way for how other public figures, from creators and artists to musicians, can create tokenized ecosystems for their fans. Dynamic NFTs offer an exciting avenue for fans to celebrate the achievements of their favorite public figures and participate in a creator-led ecosystem. 

Up until now, celebrity-backed NFTs sold to fans have acted as a crowdfunding source, helping them to build a relationship with their communities in a way that wouldn’t be possible with centralized platforms. However, this doesn’t always have to be a one-and-done deal. NFTs can be dynamically updated to continuously add more exciting and valuable experiences for fans, capturing their attention far better than current platforms and systems allow for while extending the lifespan and utility of NFT engagement.

For example, musicians could sell their albums or concert tickets as NFTs that could dynamically upgrade to platinum when a sales benchmark is reached or include front-row tickets as redeemable NFT traits. These initiatives could be tailored to specific outcomes: If a musician or agent wants to reward early backers, they could specify that only the first 500 NFTs bought will be upgraded. 

Structured correctly, dNFTs don’t just empower public figures, but reward communities for their efforts and foster a win-win situation for all parties involved. High-value rewards such as back-stage tickets could be linked to album sales, with fans who refer others to buy albums able to see their progress immutably reflected in NFT metadata and changes to their NFT artwork. If they reach a certain referral threshold, an NFT trait related to rewards could be triggered, giving the NFT owner access to backstage concert passes.

dNFTs serve as a base from which ecosystems can be built and communities can be expanded. Album sales, subscriber count, tournament wins, Twitter followers, or any number of widely celebrated statistics can be measured, codified into dynamic NFTs, and subsequently gamified to create a more engaging, efficient, and long-lasting experience. 

A diagram showing dynamic possibilities for the Gold Evolve NFT
A hypothetical LaMelo Ball ecosystem.

Transparent Data Points and Decentralized Automation

In order to build a direct relationship between public figures and their fan bases through NFTs and blockchain technology, projects will require a degree of transparency that ensures fans are able to audit NFT details every step of the way, from NFT metadata to real-world events. 

In order to verify that real-world events have occurred and establish this on-chain, there must be a middleware service that provides critical off-chain data to the blockchains where NFTs exist in a way that assures data veracity. For off-chain data that is available from multiple sources, decentralized oracle networks such as Chainlink provide aggregation to help ensure data integrity and deliver data securely to blockchains. This removes any centralized points of failure in data sourcing and delivery so that dNFTs can evolve and change in a pre-defined manner based on events that any user can independently verify have occurred.

For public figures who wish to incorporate more granular metrics or any single-party data source, Chainlink facilitates seamless interconnectivity between smart contracts and traditional APIs, helping connect any type of data to dNFTs. 

Furthermore, in order to build a truly set-and-forget process for public figures to maintain constantly changing NFTs, a combination of data feeds and automation services like Chainlink Automation are required. Because NFT infrastructure will likely not be built by public figures but facilitated by accessible, user-friendly software, Chainlink Automation can help NFT minting platforms manage dNFT ecosystems by automatically triggering NFT smart contracts when a certain outcome has been determined—for example, LaMelo Ball scoring 1000 points in a season or a YouTube star reaching 100 million followers.

A New Frontier for Community Engagement

As dNFTs grow in popularity and the underlying infrastructure advances, there will be lower barriers to entry for public figures looking to mint their own set of dNFTs and more avenues for them to better engage their fanbases. While Galaxis and Playground’s LaMelo Ball NFTs are spearheading dynamic NFT use cases as a way to engage athletic communities, there are limitless different strategies for building incentive structures and rewards with dNFTs available across creator verticals.

Public figures across the board will soon want to better define their relationship with their communities through this new technology. By offering unique, ownable digital objects that change, transform, and evolve based on events, dNFTs offer fresh ways for athletes, musicians, influencers, and creators to take their personal brands to the next level.

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