Jazz owner Ryan Smith greets fans in a virtual experience
When Ryan Smith became owner of the Utah Jazz last December, one of the first fundamentals he wanted to instill in the organization was innovation.
With a solid background in technology, it would make sense for Smith to want to push the boundaries of technology to better serve Jazz and its fans.
That’s why less than three months after taking ownership of the organization, Smith spoke to Riley Demps about NFTs and VR. Their goal was to enter the world of non-fungible tokens and find a way to continually engage fans in the future, offering them the option of less physical contact while maintaining the same level of privacy.
On Friday night, Utah became the world’s first professional sports program to pair a digitally designed non-fungible token (NFT) with privileged access to a virtual locker room, a process that took more than six months.
According to Demps, Friday’s event wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Krista Kim and Gia Valentina. Kim, contemporary artist and founder of the Techism movement since 2014, and Valentina have helped to create the virtual space space appreciated by those present.
“The metaverse will be an extension of community engagement for all sports teams, brands and organizations,” Kim said. “It’s exciting to work with Metaverse architect Michael Potts and his team to create the new Metaverse Utah Jazz dressing room, and we’re the first to add a Metaverse community engagement that’s unlocked through NFT Jazz Genesis. Community engagement in the Metaverse is our new reality, and this new generation of NFT is making it possible.
Anyone who bought the NFT on September 7 has been allowed to speak with Smith. Part of the experience was a virtual tour of the arena before heading to the virtual locker room where Smith greeted them. What followed was a 45-minute question-and-answer session where participants could ask Smith just about anything related to NFTs, jazz, or life itself.
While most of the questions were about NFTs, some asked about Smith’s involvement not only with the Jazz, but also with the state of Utah as a whole.
When asked why free agents might be willing to choose Utah as their destination, Smith gave a candid assessment of the situation.
He thinks it’s his job and the job of the whole state to show how unique Utah is as a whole. Smith wants others to know that Jazz serves as a unifying factor not only for the people who live here, but for fans around the world.
He’s not your typical NBA owner – Smith is one of two under 55 owners – he has been able to build relationships with the coaching staff while also building relationships with players from multiple ways off the court.
Whether it’s discussing the struggles of being a father with Joe Ingles, playing golf with Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, or talking about fashion with Jordan Clarkson, Smith has proven he’s just one. small piece of the cog that makes up the organization.
He reiterated that message at the Silicon Slopes event last week when he spoke alongside fellow owner Dwyane Wade. Smith told those in attendance that he didn’t believe in majority or minority owners, that they all had a voice and a say, a notion Wade agreed with.
This isn’t the last time fans will be able to participate in a Q&A of this magnitude by purchasing an NFT. Smith and Demps both believe the Jazz and the NBA are only scratching the surface of NFTs and virtual experiences, a process they both hope to lead in the future.