Serial entrepreneur and competitor LeBron James has invested in another company. This time, he has become the co-owner of a team in a sport outside of basketball.
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, Major League Pickleball announced the four-time NBA championship winner (and 18-year NBA All-Star) has linked with two other top-name ballers, Draymond Green and Kevin Love, to become owners of a team in the fastest-growing sport in the nation. Through LRMR Ventures, the trio will partner with CEO Maverick Carter, investment firm SC Holdings, The SpringHill Company CMO Paul Rivera, and Relevent Sports Group co-owner and CEO Daniel Sillman to present a team that “bring unparalleled experiences” to the sport.
With this newly formed franchise (and another), MLP has expanded its team roster from 12 to 16 and “will continue to offer the highest prize money payouts per event to its players,” a press release reports. It has scheduled for 2023, six tournaments for players to compete across the nation for over $2 million.
Celebrity athletes like James, Green, and Love support a larger plan to validate and further expand the sport.
MLP Founder Steve Kuhn said, “Having SC Holdings, LRMR Ventures, and their incredible group as owners and investors in Major League Pickleball is not just great for MLP, it’s a watershed moment for pickleball in general.”
What is Pickleball
“Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country, building communities in cities and towns all over the world,” Kuhn continued. “This investment and the platform that this group provides will significantly help us with our goal to reach 40 million pickleball players by 2030.”
Pickleball might sound new but has been around since 1965. The official sport for the Evergreen State was invented by Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard and his friend, businessman Bill Bell, according to USA Pickleball, the national governing body for the sport in the United States.
The game “combines many elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong,” can be “played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and slightly modified tennis net,” “played with a paddle and plastic ball with holes,” and can be a single or double player sport.
In February of 2022, there were almost 5 million participants in various organized pickleball tournaments, games, or programs, according to The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) 2022 Sports, Fitness, and Leisure Activities Topline Participation Report and has “a growth of 39.3% over the last two years,” making it the fastest-growing sport in America for the second year in a row.
This seems to be the perfect venture for James to align his enterprise with.
James Expands Investments
The billionaire baller from Akron, at 37 years of age, is one of the highest-paid athletes of his generation and is the first active NBA player to make Forbes’ billionaire list. To put it in perspective, Michael Jordan made the list only eight years ago, more than a decade after he retired from the sport.
He has made the “Big B” club by investing well, securing sound endorsement deals to the tune of $900 million, and being a top-notch athlete that has “commanded more than $385 million in salary from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers,” making him the highest-paid active player in the league.
In fact, because of his deals with Nike, AT&T, PepsiCo, Walmart, and others, he was the second highest-earning athlete in the world.
All this and he still had not bought a team.
He stated earlier in the year that he wanted to own his franchise.
“I want to own a team. … I want to buy a team, for sure,” James said in a clip from “The Shop,” ”I want a team in Vegas.”
Now he has the opportunity to run a sports team and Pickleball may be his entrance.
Jason Stein, the Managing Partner of SC Holdings, said, “Pickleball is one of the most exciting growth opportunities in sports because of its committed and engaged community across the U.S.”
“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,” Stein added. “
We’re thrilled to become partners of Major League Pickleball – which as a league and sport is just getting started,” he said.