See the Athletes, Investors and Companies Clamoring for a Piece of Professional Pickleball

Major names are staking their claim as the sport explodes in popularity

Pickleball, a hybrid of tennis, ping pong and badminton, is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Cindy Skop/The Villages Daily Sun /AP


There were about 4.8 million players in the U.S. in 2021, a 39% increase from 2019, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Major League Pickleball, founded in 2021, is also growing. The league will have 16 teams in 2023, up from 12 this year.

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Some current and former professional athletes have become fans of the sport and are investing in teams.

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Major League Pickleball has declined to disclose the details of the deals, but has said pickleball teams have been valued in the seven figures.

The league has also said it wants to boost the number of amateur pickleball players from about five million people to 40 million by 2030.

Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Basketball superstar LeBron James, who recently became a billionaire and oversees an expanding business portfolio, invested in a team in September.

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady joined the pickleball craze in October. Brady, who returned to the NFL after previously saying he would retire, has also inked a deal with Fox to become a football analyst after he retires.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant’s investment in a pickleball team adds to his growing list of business ventures, which also include launching a special-purpose acquisition company and investing in a sports-merchandising business.

Rusty Jones/Associated Press

Former NFL quarterback Drew Brees bought a piece of the Mad Drops Pickleball Club in July and also recently invested in a restaurant chain.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Former No. 1 ranked tennis player Kim Clijsters invested in a pickleball team with NFL quarterback Tom Brady after retiring for the third time in April. The six-time tennis Grand Slam champion previously retired from professional tennis in 2007 and 2012.

Eric Lalmand/Zuma Press

Billionaire hedge-fund manager Marc Lasry became co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014. Seven years later, he invested in the Lions pickleball team.

Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Former world No. 4 tennis player James Blake invested in the Lions with Marc Lasry in 2021.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors star forward Draymond Green won his fourth NBA championship ring in June. Months later, he bought a pickleball team with LeBron James and other investors.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser and other beers, said Tuesday it was buying a Major League Pickleball team. It is the first Fortune 500 company to buy a team.

Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

League pickleball players will play in six tournaments in six U.S. cities for more than $2 million in cash prizes in 2023, the league said.

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Produced by Tania Colon

Cover Image: Matt York/Associated Press