NBA stars LeBron James, Kevin Love and Draymond Green have agreed to buy a pickleball team




CNN

Yes, you read the title correctly.

NBA superstar LeBron James is once again expanding his sports portfolio, this time to America’s new favorite pastime.

James is part of a consortium that is buying an expansion franchise in Major League Pickleball (MLP) as the competition grows from 12 to 16 teams.

The consortium includes NBA players Draymond Green and Kevin Love, as well as James’ lifelong friend and business partner, Maverick Carter, among others.

MLP founder Steve Kuhn called the investment by the three basketball stars, who have nine NBA championships between them, “a moment for pickleball.”

“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country, building communities in cities and towns around the world,” Kuhn said. “This investment and the platform this team provides will significantly support our goal of reaching 40 million pickleball players by 2030.”

Along with this new ownership group, MLP says it expects to announce more investments in a roster that includes Super Bowl champion Drew Brees, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry and former world No. 4 tennis player James Blake.

Dubbed America’s unofficial pandemic pastime, more than a million Americans have taken up a paddle in the past two years.

But what is the sport that has spread across the country?

The basic goal of pickleball, as in other racquet sports, is to hit the ball over the net and avoid hitting it back to your opponent.

It can be played singles or doubles, indoors or outdoors, on a court of 20 meters by 44 meters – roughly the size of a badminton court – and lasts until a side reaches 11 points, with a two-point cushion.

Pickleball got its start in 1965, when future US Congressman Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell tried to entertain their bored children during the holidays.

Staying at a property on Bainbridge Island with a paved badminton court, they assembled the equipment available: a ball, ping-pong paddles and a badminton net that they then lowered to 36 inches, closer to the height of a tennis court. net, once they saw that the ball bounced well on the asphalt.

As the vacation progressed, they began to create rules for the game, with the help of another friend, Barney McCallum.

The ping-pong paddles were deemed too small and they were replaced by larger, self-shaped plywood and a ball area was created no more than seven meters from the net to prevent it from breaking on either side.

Amateur pickleball players play doubleheaders in the Professional Pickleball Association Baird Wealth Management Open.

It is the non-bowl area or “kitchen” that gives pickleball its great distinctiveness.

It reduces running, allowing older players to be as competitive as younger players and reduces the role of power, allowing kids to play with adults.

Pickleball has grown in popularity in North America, fueled in part by the Covid-19 pandemic, as it offers a safe and socially distanced form of exercise.

It initially found a strong footing in retirement communities, where it was loved for its social aspect, moderate exercise and fun.

Between 2018 and 2021, however, US Pickleball membership nearly doubled and the organization estimates that 4.8 million Americans now play the sport.

Much of that expansion has been concentrated outside pickleball’s traditional demographic — the fastest rate of increase was among players under 24 driven by the height of the lockout from 2020 to 2021, when portable pickleball nets temporarily sold out as people set up small courts in driveways and yards. .