Through his firm Thirty Five Ventures, Kevin Durant has become the latest athlete to purchase a Major League Pickleball, or MLP, team, joining fellow NBA superstar LeBron James, as well as NFL standouts Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Durant did not disclose how much he paid for the team. As a team owner, the Brooklyn Nets superstar will also receive equity in MLP as it continues to grow.
Pickleball, a racket sport similar to tennis, exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as it could be played socially-distanced while outdoors. In 2021, MLP was officially launched and, by next year, plans to expand to 16 total teams.
Getting Into a Pickle
At this point, buying a franchise in a professional sports league tends to be a hobby reserved for billionaires. This leaves even investors like Durant, who recently signed a $198 million contract extension, out in the cold. The statistically-best player in the NBA might be a franchise player, but that doesn’t mean he can buy the franchise.
Instead, he’s making an alternative investment in a growing sports league: pickleball. We can assume the price tag wasn’t as high as an NBA team’s would be. But one of the advisers for MLP, Anne Worcester, noted that pickleball franchise values are growing exponentially. Some of the league’s original teams are already worth over $1 million. This price point makes them attainable for professional athletes and celebrities.
In 2021, 4.8 million people reported playing pickleball in the US. Now that major celebrities like LeBron and KD are bringing the sport into the spotlight, you can expect these numbers to keep rising.
If you happen to be sitting on a few million dollars, then you may have found your next investment. If not, you can still pick up a racket, grab some friends, and join the growing pickleball movement.
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