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Black History Month: Powerful Celebrities and Pros Propelling Pickleball Forward

Black History Month: Powerful Celebrities and Pros Propelling Pickleball Forward

  • As the game of pickleball grows in popularity across the country, a group of passionate pickleball power players are working to expand the game's reach on and off the court. We celebrate them this Black History Month.

Celebrating Black History Month 

Every year, we honor Black History Month by celebrating the contributions of Black people in all professions. 

Pickleball is no exception. As the game grows in popularity across the country, a group of passionate pickleball power players are working to expand the game’s reach on and off the court. 

This group includes celebrities and athletes who have turned their pickleball hobby into business ventures by founding paddle companies and diving into team ownership. It also includes players on the pro circuit and taking their social media audience along for the ride. 

From dominating on the court to introducing the game to new audiences, these players and celebrities are worth celebrating during Black History Month (and the rest of the year) for their contributions to the game.

Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx doesn’t just love pickleball – he also believes it’s worth investing in. Foxx co-founded The Best Paddle, which produces pickleball paddles designed with his fashion-forward style in mind.

“If you’re gonna pickle, why not pickle with the best?” Foxx said on Instagram when he announced his new venture in 2022. 

Foxx’s company offers paddles in vibrant colors, like neon pink, and neutrals, like black, white, and gray. They’ve got it covered if you’re looking for a new art piece. You can purchase a 3-foot, 4-inch long limited-edition paddle to display in your home or office.

Two years later, Foxx’s passion for pickleball is still going strong. After a health scare in early 2023, he returned to the court in May, according to an Instagram post from his daughter, Corinne. In August, he made pickleball headlines again after hitting an impressive shot against Olympian volleyball player Casey Patterson. 

Kevin Durant

As pickleball leagues take off, celebrities and athletes want in on the action. NBA All-Star Kevin Durant is one of them after purchasing a Major League Pickleball expansion team, the Brooklyn Aces, in 2022. In 2023, rapper Drake and actor Michael B. Jordan also invested in the team.

Durant didn’t expect to be interested in pickleball until he began to play himself. Now, he’s a team owner. 

“We really, really want to leave our mark from day one on how hard our team is going to play and how successful we’re going to be as a group,” Durant said in a video released on Boardroom, a media and entertainment company Durant co-founded. 

The MLP has a handful of high-profile owners, including the NBA’s LeBron James and Draymond Green. 

Naomi Osaka

The men can’t have all the pickleball fun. Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka invested in the Miami Pickleball Club in 2022. The star-studded investment group includes NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes and NBA agent Rich Paul.

Osaka brings considerable star power to pickleball. She is one of the world’s highest-paid female athletes. Pickleball, though, is new territory for the four-time Grand Slam winner. 

“Pickleball is the unknown for me,” Osaka told the Japan Times. “It’s been around, but it feels like it just blew up. Learning about it and seeing LeBron [James] invest in it is something that leaned me more toward thinking it was a good idea. “

Osaka is one of the many tennis players experimenting with pickleball. Serena and Venus Williams have also discussed their love for pickleball, though they haven’t made the jump to pickleball ownership or entrepreneurship. 

“Hurricane” Tyra Black

Tyra Black took over the pickleball scene like, well, a hurricane when she upset top-ranked Anna Leigh Waters last year.

Black grew up playing tennis but eventually realized it wasn’t bringing her a lot of joy. She transitioned to pickleball in February 2023 and quickly began making her mark. 

“Fast forward to March [2023], I played my first event on tour, and things just started looking up from there,” Black wrote on Instagram in December. “Pickleball was more than just a game for me. It brought a ton of happiness.”

Black played for Osaka’s club, Miami Pickleball Club, in 2023. 

Jessie Irvine

Like Black, Jessie Irvine also successfully shifted from tennis to pickleball.

Irvine played professional tennis but sustained injuries that ended her playing career. She thought her time as a professional athlete was over – until she found pickleball. 

“I really thought that goal in life was done,” Irvine told the Desert Sun in 2022. “But in 2019, I decided to give pickleball a go, and I’ve been going ever since.”

Irvine ranked in the top 5 in all three women’s professional pickleball divisions and is now among the sport’s top players. She won the Major League Pickleball Super Finals with the Chicago Slice in 2023. 

Who else should be on this list?

From celebrities to pickleball pros, there are plenty of people worth celebrating during Black History Month for their contributions to pickleball. Who would you add to the list? 

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