Pickleball, America’s Fastest Growing Sport, Is Getting A Major League
— 3 October 2022

Pickleball, America’s Fastest Growing Sport, Is Getting A Major League

— 3 October 2022

Try and wrap your head around the fact that Pickleball – the 57-year-old hybrid between badminton, Wiffle Ball, tennis, and padel; preferred sport of the 1% – is suddenly taking over the sporting world.

Just as the tennis world lost two of its greatest athletes in Serena Williams and Roger Federer, Major League Pickleball (MLP) is wasting no time in acquiring a star-studded ownership rank to take the sport to new heights.

Pickleball was originally invented as a tennis variant for children. For the uninitiated, it’s played on a 1/3-sized court featuring a lowered net, carbon fibre paddles, and hollow plastic balls with holes in them. The sport requires very minimal athleticism, hence its inclusion of “no volley zones” and, to be brutally honest, it’s popularity within a country that consistently ranks among the bottom 15th percentile of exercise is… unsurprising.

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While the MLP was established last year, many have tried to get a Pickleball league off the ground in the past. Thomas Dundon, owner of TopGolf and the Carolina Hurricanes, founded the rival company Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) circa 2019. Players are forbidden by contract to compete in both leagues.

As it stands, the MLP draft and events are streamed on YouTube with no major network owning the broadcast rights. As long as Google search results for “MLP” are dominated by cartoon series about ponies, it’s fair to say that the league’s glory days remain ahead of them.

Currently, MLP team ownership includes the likes of former Super Bowl champion Drew Brees, former World No. 4 tennis star James Blake, real estate broker Ryan Serhant (Million Dollar Listing New York), as well as noted entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. More recently, the NBA’s LeBron James, Draymond Green, and Kevin Love have all decided to get in on the action as well, as a part of the league’s expansion to 16 teams.

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The ownership group also includes James’ longtime friend Maverick Carter and business partner (CEO of their shared entertainment brand SpringHill Company), Paul Rivera (SpringHill’s CMO), and Daniel Sillman, the latter of whom is the co-owner and CEO of Relevent Sports Group and SC Holdings.

“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 via statement.

“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.”

MLP teams – comprised of four players: two men + two women – compete in both singles and doubles competitions across three different events every season. The 2022 season finale will be held in Columbus, Ohio this October, offering a record US$319,000 (AU$494,000) single-event prize purse.

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