Already a partial owner of pro teams including the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins and Liverpool FC thanks to his involvement with Fenway Sports Group, LeBron James has locked up a piece of a Major League Pickleball franchise as part of an ownership group that also includes fellow NBA players Draymond Green and Kevin Love as well as the basketball superstar’s business partner Maverick Carter.
The ownership group will take control of a franchise as MLP, the standard-bearer for pickleball in the United States which offers the highest prize money payouts per event to its players, expands from 12 to 16 teams with players set to compete in six tournaments across six U.S. cities in 2023.
“Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country, building communities in cities and towns all over the world,” MLP founder Steve Kuhn said in a statement. “This investment and the platform that this group provides will significantly help us with our goal to reach 40 million pickleball players by 2030.”
The name of the ownership group’s team and where it will play have yet to be determined. As of now, there is no rule that would prevent James from suiting up for his squad.
“When I started playing pickleball, I immediately connected with the sport’s community and its capacity to be both fun and competitive,” Carter told CNBC in an interview. “To see the sport growing in communities all over is really exciting, and we’re looking forward to bringing our expertise together to try and build a championship team.”
MLP already counts ex-NFL player Drew Brees, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, former World No. 4 tennis player James Blake and Million Dollar Listing New York star Ryan Serhant as owners. The league’s 2022 finale is set to take place in Ohio from October 14-16 with the largest single-event prize purse ($319,000) in pickleball history on the line. The winning team will earn $100,000.