NBA's Durant latest high-profile athlete to invest in pickleball

FILE PHOTO: Oct 19, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) reacts during the third quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner

(Reuters) - Two-time NBA champion and former league Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant on Thursday became the latest high-profile athlete to buy a Major League Pickleball (MLP) expansion team.

The Brooklyn Nets forward and business partner Rich Kleiman announced that their Thirty Five Ventures (35V) firm purchased a pickleball team that is set to compete in the 2023 MLP season.

MLP Founder and Chief Executive Officer Steve Kuhn said Durant, who led the Golden State Warriors to NBA titles in 2017 and 2018, and Kleiman would be "game-changing partners" for the league.

"They not only bring passion for the game, but also unrivaled expertise to help us to continue to grow," Kuhn said in a news release.

"We're especially excited about their plans to bring pickleball to underserved communities – something they have done with basketball for years."

Other MLP team owners and partners include four-time NBA champion LeBron James, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees as well as former world number one tennis player Kim Clijsters.

The MLP will expand from 12 teams to 16 next season, with the number of events doubling from three to six and the total prizemoney set to surpass $2 million.

Invented in 1965, pickleball is a fast-paced paddle sport similar to tennis and badminton, though it is played on a smaller court with a net using a perforated plastic ball.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto)

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