- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 29, 2022

NBA star LeBron James is part of a new ownership group that is purchasing a Major League Pickleball expansion team.

The Los Angeles Lakers forward, along with fellow NBA stars Draymond Green and Kevin Love and James’ longtime business partner Maverick Carter, will help grow the league from 12 to 16 teams, according to a press release from Major League Pickleball.

They join current owners, such as former NFL quarterback Drew Brees, author and lecturer Brené Brown and former American tennis player James Blake, in the growing sport’s professional league.

“People are obsessed with the game, as both participants and fans, and we’re excited to use our collective experience and expertise across sports, media, and entertainment to reach new participants and expand the community,” Jason Stein, who is a managing partner of SC Holdings and is part of the ownership group, said in the release.

Pickleball is a tennis-like game where players use rackets to hit a ball back and forth over a net. What distinguishes the sport is the no volley zone around the net — called the “kitchen” — which negates much of the athleticism needed to play competitive tennis, but also makes the game more accessible to older players.

There are nearly 5 million pickleball players in the country, according to a report from the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry Association. 

The sport has had an annual growth rate of 11.5% over the past five years and became more popular among casual players during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to USA Pickleball.

Other members of James’ ownership group include Paul Rivera, the chief marketing officer for The SpringHill Company, and Relevent Sports Group co-owner and CEO Daniel Sillman.

• Matt Delaney can be reached at mdelaney@washingtontimes.com.

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