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What is Pickleball and why are LeBron James and others investing in it?

Pickleball appears to be the hottest ticket in town, with more and more investing in the sport. Is it here to stay or just a passing fancy?

Update:
What is Pickleball and why are LeBron James and others investing in it?
MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty ImagesGetty

Widely seen as the fastest growing sport right now in the U.S.A., Pickleball has attracted the attention of some high-profile athletes in recent times, but what is it and why are they flocking to it? Let’s find out!

What is Pickleball?

According to the official website of USA Pickleball, it is “...a fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court, using a slightly modified tennis net, the sport is played using a paddle and a plastic ball with holes.” It can be played as both doubles or singles.

As for where it originated, the website goes on to explain that Pickleball was Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island - a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington. The apparent brain child of three fathers - Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum — the game was allegedly created in response to their children’s boredom. Today, the game has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity, which brings us to the interest that it has garnered in investors. More specifically, NBA stars.

LeBron James and others want in on Pickleball

Having already shown a willingness to invest in other sports, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Lakers icon LeBron James wants a piece of the pickleball pie. Indeed, through his LRMR Ventures - James co-owns it with Maverick Carter - the NBA star has already invested in the likes of MLB’s Boston Red Sox, English Premier League’s Liverpool FC, NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and NASCAR’s RFK Racing. In keeping with that, James and Co. now intend to buy a Major League Pickleball expansion franchise. Interestingly, it’s not just James either as fellow NBA players Draymond Green and Kevin Love, are also reportedly investing in the team.

Alongside the trio, there will also be investment firm SC Holdings, The SpringHill Company CMO Paul Rivera, and Relevent Sports Group co-owner and CEO Daniel Sillman. If you were wondering, yes, there are in fact other elite level athletes and investors who are getting involved in Pickleball as well. Former NFL player and Super Bowl champion Drew Brees, along with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry are some of the names who have joined the list. “Pickleball is one of the most exciting growth opportunities in sports because of its committed and engaged community across the U.S.,” Managing Partner of SC Holdings Jason Stein said in a statement. “People are obsessed with the game, as both participants and fans, and we’re excited to use our collective experience and expertise across sports, media, and entertainment to reach new participants and expand the community. We’re thrilled to become partners of Major League Pickleball – which as a league and sport is just getting started.”

Major League Pickleball is growing fast

When the league debuted in 2021, there were just eight teams, but in one year it has grown to 12. As things stand, MLP will be adding even more clubs next year which is testament to how quickly the sport is growing. It is understood that in 2023, players will compete in six tournaments across six different cities nationally with more than $2 million up for grabs.

“Having SC Holdings, LRMR Ventures, and their incredible group as owners and investors in Major League Pickleball is not just great for MLP, it’s a watershed moment for pickleball in general,” said MLP Founder Steve Kuhn in the official press release. “Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country, building communities in cities and towns all over the world. This investment and the platform that this group provides will significantly help us with our goal to reach 40 million pickleball players by 2030.”

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