What do Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Tom Brady all have in common? It is probably not what you think it is. All of them are officially proud owners of the fastest-growing sport in America: Pickleball. Here's a closer look...
Here is the down low for those wondering what this sport actually is. Pickleball is basically a little sibling of tennis. As the New York Times described, "It's a variant of tennis played on a smaller court with paddles and a light, perforated plastic ball that doesn't fly as fast." It can be played indoors or outdoors and solo or as doubles. Since the sport moves at a slower speed, it is way more low-impact and less physically demanding than tennis, making it a favorite among retirees for decades. The sport has been around since the 1960s. But in recent years, it isn't just grandma and grandpa picking up a paddle. Pickleball has taken an upswing in popularity - now considered the fastest-growing sport in America, with over 4.8 million players in 2021, according to the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
Some of the biggest names in the biz are investing. Two-time NBA Championship winner Kevin Durant announced that through his company with Rich Kleiman, Thirty Five Ventures, they have purchased a Major League Pickleball expansion team and will be ready to compete for the 2023 MLP season. They have joined an elite group of athletes investing in the newly found major league sport. Among their fellow team owners are seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady, longtime former quarterback Drew Brees, former tennis star Kim Clijsters, NBA Star Draymond Green, co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks Marc Lasry, and none other than LeBron James. That's to name a few. With everyone investing in the sport, the league has expanded from 12 to 16 teams, doubling the events and increasing the potential payouts to more than $2 million.
"I never thought I would get into pickleball until Rich convinced me to go to the court one day, I played a few games, and I was like, 'I understand now,'" Durant confessed about the sport. And yet the pickleball storm does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Stay tuned.