By Kim Bhasin
Basketball star Kevin Durant is purchasing a Major League Pickleball expansion team as the upstart sport expands and attracts new investors.
Thirty Five Ventures, the investment firm run by Durant and Rich Kleiman, will own and operate a team full-time, running personnel, merchandise, sponsorships and marketing. The squad is set to first compete in the 2023 season. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
The surging popularity of pickleball, a paddle sport in which players hit a ball back and forth over a net on a much smaller court than in tennis, has been a boon for MLP, a new professional league that debuted last year.
In recent months, the league has lured many new backers to join its ownership ranks. NBA stars LeBron James, Draymond Green and Kevin Love are now co-owners of a pickleball team, and hedge fund Knighthead Capital Management leads a new ownership group that includes quarterback Tom Brady and former world No. 1 tennis player Kim Clijsters.
Durant’s venture firm has investments in other sports as well, including the National Women’s Soccer League’s Gotham FC, New York esports organization Andbox, the Athletes Unlimited network of women’s leagues and the Premier Lacrosse League.