LeBron James is taking his (investment) talents to a different court.
Major League Pickleball (MLP) announced Wednesday that an investment group led by the Lakers star and his business partner Maverick Carter has secured the rights to own a pro pickleball team. Other investors in the group include NBA forwards Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the investment firm SC Holdings, The SpringHill Company chief marketing officer Paul Rivera and Relevent Sports Group co-owner and CEO Daniel Sillman.
“When I started playing pickleball, I immediately connected with the sport’s community and its capacity to be both fun and competitive,” Carter told CNBC in an interview. “To see the sport growing in communities all over is really exciting, and we’re looking forward to bringing our expertise together to try and build a championship team.”
James and Carter will operate as the team’s owners through their family office, LRMR Ventures.
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In the announcement Wednesday, MLP said it is expanding from 12 to 16 teams. Next year, players will compete in six tournaments held in different U.S. cities with prize money for those events exceeding $2 million.
The league also said that at this year’s season finale, which will be held Oct. 14-16 in Columbus, Ohio, 48 players will compete for the largest single-event purse in the history of professional pickleball, $319,000. The winning team will net $100,000.
Students from the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I Promise school in Akron will be in attendance at the finale.
“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,” MLP founder Steve Kuhn said Wednesday in a news release. “Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country, building communities in cities and towns all over the world. This investment and the platform that this group provides will significantly help us with our goal to reach 40 million pickleball players by 2030.”
James, 37, has diversified his investments in recent years and saw his net worth surpass $1 billion in June. In 2015, he reached a lifetime deal with Nike. He also has endorsements with AT&T, PepsiCo and Walmart.
Last year, James and Carter became partners in Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and Roush Fenway Racing, among other properties. James also has stakes in the smart gym company Tonal and ride-hailing service Lyft, reports Forbes, which notes he has cash and other investments totaling $500 million.
James and Carter also co-founded The Springhill Company, which has created a variety of film, television and audio series including “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “Uninterrupted: The Shop.”
James will be entering his 20th season in the NBA and his fifth with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Contributing: Brett Molina