National Basketball Players Association unveils metaverse experience with MeetKai



MeetKai and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) are launching their metaverse experience ahead of the NBA All-Star Weekend.

Los Angeles-based MeetKai joined forces with Think450, an innovation partner for the NBPA, to build the metaverse experience for fans engage with their favorite NBA teams and players.

Starting today, guests can enter the virtual space created with MeetKai’s metaverse platform on their mobile and desktop devices to gain exclusive access to NBA players, merchandise and more.

The highlight of the upcoming NBPA metaverse is a digital recreation of “The Brotherhood Deli,” a previously in-person fan pop-up shop that occupied the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

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“We’re always looking for opportunities to connect fans with our players in more meaningful ways, especially around their passion points,” said Keisha Wright, SVP of partnerships and purpose at Think450, in an interview with GamesBeat at CES 2024. “I’m talking about the passion points off the floor because the NBA is 48 minutes on the floor, but we are talking about the other 23 hours and 12 minutes that are off the floor. We’re thinking about the brands that they love in fashion and music and entertainment.”

She added, “The deli is all about exposing fans to the brands that our players love. When we met Meetkai and learned about their metaverse capability and how accessible it is, we thought it would be a good idea to test our Brotherhood Deli property in the metaverse.”

Leveraging MeetKai’s metaverse platform and AI-enabled digital twin technology, this bodega-inspired store will feature a wall of player-endorsed brands and exclusive player-inspired merchandise.

Attendees can explore the immersive retail experience through their mobile devices or web browsers, accessing digital replicas of merchandise available for purchase from brands endorsed and respected by NBPA members.

Coinciding with NBA All-Star Weekend, the virtual space promises an easily accessible, immersive experience for basketball enthusiasts, offering for exclusive access to players, merchandise, contests, and more.

During the week of its launch, the NBPA metaverse will open its vault to limited-edition daily merchandise drops from brands founded by, invested in, respected, or endorsed by NBPA members, also known as “F.I.R.E brands.” The vault will also include merchandise from The Sanctuary capsule, a performance line previously reserved only for players. Additionally, fans can also join virtual meet-and-greets with
players, enabling them to take selfies with their avatars and ask questions in real-time.

James Kaplan, CEO of MeetKai, said in an interview with GamesBeat at CES 2024 that the metaverse is about making the players seem more human with a lot of interests.

“What we can do is use technology allow people to have a connection beyond the people that can come in person or be lucky enough to sit courtside. Less than 10% of people ever see an NBA game. And so this gives you an opportunity to be to be courtside, pretty much in the metaverse and get to interact with your favorite player.”

The goal with the latest metaverse experiences is to make sure people keep coming back, Kaplan said. And since it uses the web, MeetKai’s metaverse technology is more open and accessible as a technology; it’s not a walled garden.

Left to right: Dean Takahashi, Weili Dai, James Kaplan and Keisha Wright.

Back in October, MeetKai launched a metaverse store for the Charlotte Hornets NBA basketball team.

The NBPA metaverse experience is designed to enable basketball enthusiasts to customize lifelike 3D avatars, interact with other fans, peruse merchandise, virtually try on apparel, and make purchases that can be shipped directly to their homes.

Additional features scheduled for rollout throughout the season include virtual meet and greets with players, an exclusive media lounge offering previews of NBPA content, gamified contests to win exclusive merchandise, and even a chance to visit “The Brotherhood Deli” in person.

Weili Dai, executive chairwoman of MeetKai, said in an interview with GamesBeat, “What you need is the technology. But the second piece you need is affordability so more people can benefit. We make it so affordable for people to experience this.”

Dai said she used to enjoy playing basketball when she was growing up and she is glad to return to that passion through MeetKai.

“I’m extremely proud of our team at MeetKai and what we’ve accomplished for NBPA,” Dai said. “Collaborating with the NBPA is both: another beam of our leadership as the world-leading AI metaverse company, and a natural extension for us, after building metaverse worlds for NBA and NFL teams and millions of other sports fans around the world. We hope they enjoy this experience as much as we’ve enjoyed making it a reality and we look forward to “The Brotherhood Deli” as only the beginning of a very successful, long-term partnership.”

Virtual meet-and-greets with NBA athletes will also be available, enabling fans to engage and ask questions in real time, take virtual selfies of their customized avatars and more. By deploying MeetKai’s AI-enabled, digital twin technology, MeetKai was able to create exact virtual replicas of exclusive merchandise available for digital try on and player avatars that mimic the NBA stars in real life, as well as recreating the NBPA’s in-person fan pop up shop, “The Brotherhood Deli.”

To excite basketball fans during All-Star, Indianapolis locals will be treated to an opportunity to step into the physical realm of “The Brotherhood Deli,” located at Circle Centre Mall – 49 W. Maryland Street, 2nd Floor, Indianapolis, IN 46024 – creating a meta-on meta experience as they traverse the tangible space that inspired the virtual world of the NBPA metaverse.

The same exclusive merchandise available in the metaverse will be sold in person at the pop-up shop experience.

Guests can register for free access at nbpa.com/brotherhooddeli.

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