Tom Brady, LeBron James are latest celebs to embrace pro pickleball

Sports

FILE -Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) smiles as he runs off the field after an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Houston. Tom Brady will be on the hot seat – this time during a Netflix roast. Netflix announced Tuesday, May 17, 2022, the seven-time Super Bowl champion will be featured first in a series of upcoming specials called “Greatest Roasts of All Time: GROAT.” Brady is the executive producer of the series, with his roast set to tape in 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson, File)

(NewsNation) — Pickleball: It’s been around since the ’60s and is now America’s fastest-growing sport. Wednesday, one of the nation’s biggest football stars announced that he’s on board.

NFL great Tom Brady and tennis legend Kim Clijsters are getting in on the action by buying a major league pickleball team. They join big names such as LeBron James and Drew Brees.

Last month, James announced he is buying a club. Now, Brady is partnering with Clijsters and leading an expansion ownership group for 2023.

But good luck trying to get in on the packed pickleball party. League officials say they have gotten 100 more requests for a team since the Brady announcement Wednesday morning.

“When there’s a celebrity on the team, it just completely elevates the announcement. If half of 1% of the people who see this great news today about Tom Brady and Clijsters joining major league pickleball pick up a paddle for the first time and try pickleball, that’s hundreds of thousands of new players discovering this awesome sport,” Anne Worcester, Major League Pickleball’s strategic adviser, said.

The sport that’s a mix between tennis, badminton and ping pong is exploding in popularity. Now that many star-studded athletes are getting in on it, the buzz is only expected to grow louder.

Nearly 5 million people played pickleball in the U.S. last year. That marks a 39 percent increase from 2019, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

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