November 30, 2022

Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images
· less than 3 min read
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More like LeBrine, amirite? LeBron James, his business partner Maverick Carter, and several other NBA stars are the proud new owners of a Major League Pickleball team.
It’s another sign that pickleball’s (literally) loud entrance during the pandemic just keeps growing as more high-profile names sign on. MLP was only founded in 2021, but it’s already expanding from 12 teams to 16 and has among its backers NFL QB Drew Brees, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, and Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry.
The backstory: Pickleball, which is similar to tennis but more accessible to beginners, is the fastest growing sport in the country, according to MLP’s founder Steve Kuhn. The number of players surged from 3.4 million in 2019 to 4.8 million in 2021—and that’s likely an undercount.
But with an average of three new pickleball venues opening up per day in the US, some people have half-soured on the sport as it takes over their cherished tennis courts and public spaces. One frustrated father told the NY Post, pickleball players are “the lantern flies of the sports world.”
Bottom line: Pickleballers and their neighbors will have to learn to share the court, because the sport is well funded and isn’t going anywhere. MLP’s purses for six 2023 tournaments will total more than $2 million.—NF
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