From one court to another! Basketball player Kevin Durant becomes the latest star to own a pickleball team as he joins Tom Brady and LeBron James in investing in growing sport
Kevin Durant has become the latest sports superstar to own a professional pickleball franchise.
The Brooklyn Nets forward, along with his manager Rich Kleiman and their joint venture Thirty Five Ventures, were announced as the owners of Major League Pickleball expansion team.
’35V is committed to investing in the future of sports and emerging opportunities, and Major League Pickleball is a league we are incredibly excited about,’ Kleiman said in a news release.
‘We can’t wait to build this team from the ground up as well as work to elevate the sport and the league to unprecedented heights. As an avid pickleball player and fan, the interest in the sport was a natural fit.’
Durant spoke in a video recorded in one of 35V’s board rooms and said: ‘We really, really want to leave our mark from day one on how hard our team is going to play and how successful we’re going to be as a group. ‘
The 12-time all-star also said that he ‘never thought he would get into pickleball, but he became a ‘small 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 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 are going to be game-changing partners for Major League Pickleball,’ Steve Kuhn, the MLP CEO and founder, said in the release.
‘They not only bring passion for the game, but also unrivaled expertise to help us to continue to grow. We’re especially excited about their plans to bring pickleball to underserved communities — something they’ve done with basketball for years.’
The Durant and Kleiman duo 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 a MLP expansion team.
People play pickleball at a pubic court in Brooklyn on September 29. Game that’s easy to pick up and more accessible than tennis, pickleball is all the rage in New York, as the sport snags investors and grows increasingly professionalized across the US
Major League Pickleball added to its roster of high-profile owners 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 yet to decide on a name
Brady and Clijsters’ group is led by Knighthead Capital Management LLC and also includes financial advisor Kaitlyn Kerr, who will serve as the team’s general manager. Matt Alvarez, a film producer who worked on ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ is also an investor.
Played both indoors and out, pickleball is a paddle sport similar to tennis, only instead of a fuzzy Dunlop, it uses a perforated, hollow polymer ball. Court sizes are about a third the size of tennis dimensions, and the game relies on volleying much more than its sister sport.
The MLP has six tournaments scheduled for 2023 with more than $2million in prize money up for grabs.
The sport has suddenly gained in popularity, although pinpointing an exact reason for that is difficult.
One survey from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association found that 4.8 million Americans played pickleball in 2021, which is up 11.5 percent over the previous five years.
Pickleball has an advantage over other sports because it can be played by athletes of all ages, although it’s most popular among the 18-to-34 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, has suddenly gained in popularity