Kevin Durant has become the latest sports superstar to own a professional pickleball franchise.
Durant, along with his manager Rich Kleiman and their joint venture Thirty Five Ventures, were announced as the owners of the Major League Pickleball expansion team.
“35V is committed to investing in the future of sports and new opportunities, and Major League Pickleball is a league we’re incredibly excited about,” Kleiman said in a press release.
“We can’t wait to build this team from the ground up and work to take the sport and competition to unprecedented heights. As an avid pickleball player and fan, the interest in the sport was a natural match.’
Speaking in a video recorded in one of the 35V boardrooms, Durant said: “We really want to make our mark from day one on how hard our team is going to play and how successful we are going to be as a group. ‘
The 12-time all-star also said he “never thought he would get into pickleball, but it became a “little passion” after Kleiman got him to play the game.
Kevin Durant (R), along with his manager Rich Kleiman (L) and their joint venture Thirty Five Ventures were announced as the owners of the Major League Pickleball Expansion Team
Pickleball has an advantage over other sports because it can be played by athletes of all ages
“Kevin Durant, Rich Kleiman and 35V will become pioneering partners for Major League Pickleball,” said Steve Kuhn, the CEO and founder of MLP, in the release.
“They bring not only passion for the game, but unparalleled expertise to help us continue to grow. We’re especially excited about their plans to bring pickleball to underserved communities – something they’ve been doing with basketball for years.”
The duo of Durant and Kleiman now joins the likes of Lebron James and Maverick Carter, Draymond Green and Kevin Love, as well as Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters as owners of an MLP expansion team.
People play pickleball at a public court in Brooklyn on Sept. 29. Game that is easy to pick up and more accessible than tennis, pickleball is all the rage in New York as the sport chops investors and becomes more and more professional in the US
Major League Pickleball was joined earlier this month with two more legendary athletes: Tom Brady (left) and Kim Clijsters (right)
LeBron James (near left, with his wife Savannah) added to his sports portfolio last month with the acquisition of a professional pickleball team. James’ former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kevin Love and his Golden State Warriors rival Draymond Green (near right, with wife Hazel Renee) are also investing in the team, which has not yet decided on a name
Brady and Clijsters’ group is led by Knighthead Capital Management LLC and also includes financial advisor Kaitlyn Kerr, who will become the team’s general manager. Matt Alvarez, a film producer who worked on ‘Straight Outta Compton’, is also an investor.
Played both indoors and outdoors, Pickleball is a paddle sport similar to tennis, only instead of a fluffy Dunlop, it uses a perforated, hollow polymer ball. The court size is about a third the size of tennis, and the game relies much more on volley than its sister sport.
The MLP has six tournaments scheduled for 2023 with over $2 million in prize money up for grabs.
The sport has suddenly become popular, although it is difficult to pinpoint an exact reason for this.
A study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association found that 4.8 million Americans played pickleball in 2021, an increase of 11.5 percent from the previous five years.
Pickleball has an advantage over other sports in that it can be played by athletes of all ages, although it is most popular among the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.
The MLP said it aims to grow the sport to 40 million players by the end of the decade.
The sport, which is played both indoors and outdoors, is suddenly gaining in popularity
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