Kevin Durant latest sports star to own pickleball franchise

Kevin Durant has joined the list of superstar athletes who own a pickleball team.

Durant was announced Thursday as the owner of a Major League Pickleball expansion team alongside manager Rich Kleiman and their joint Thirty Five Ventures.

“35V is committed to investing in the future of the sport and new opportunities, and Major League Pickleball is a league we’re incredibly excited about,” Kleiman said in a press release. “We can’t wait to build this team from the ground up and work to elevate the sport and the league to unprecedented heights. As an avid pickleball player and fan, an interest in the sport was a natural fit.”

Thirty Five Ventures will be integrated into the expansion team “as a full-time company” and will manage all aspects, including marketing and player relations, according to the press release.

Durant said he “never thought” he’d get into pickleball in a video on Boardroom owned by 35V, but the Brooklyn Nets star forward said the sport has become a “little passion” after Kleiman brought him onto the pitch to play for himself.

“Kevin Durant, Rich Kleiman and 35V will be pioneering partners for Major League Pickleball,” said Steve Kuhn, CEO and founder of MLP, in the press release. “They not only bring passion for the game, but also unmatched expertise to help us continue to grow. We’re particularly excited about their plans to bring pickleball to underserved communities – something they’ve been doing with basketball for years.”

LeBron James was previously announced as the owner of an MLP expansion team alongside Maverick Carter, Draymond Green and Kevin Love. Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters were also named as part of another team’s ownership group last week. Drew Brees and James Blake are also investors in the league.

Founded in 2021, the MLP will grow from 12 teams currently to 16 in 2023 and double its annual events to six. The league said prize money is expected to top $2 million next season.

In the boardroom video, Durant said her next steps would be finding a city where the team can play and represent, and finding the right players for her vision.

“We really, really want to make our mark from day one about how hard our team is going to play and how successful we are going to be as a group,” said the 12-time NBA All-Star.

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34838548/kevin-durant-latest-sports-star-own-pickleball-franchise Kevin Durant latest sports star to own pickleball franchise

Emma Bowman

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