WNBA rookie Haley Jones and two-time WNBA champion Jewell Loyd are the newest Major League Pickleball (MLP) co-owners, the league announced Thursday.
The duo joins tennis star Naomi Osaka as MLP’s only active female athlete owners. Also buying into the single-entity league are the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and five-time World Chess champion Magnus Carlsen.
Jones, the No. 6 pick in this year’s WNBA Draft out of Stanford, along with Tatum and Allen bought into the Los Angeles Mad Drops, which currently counts former NFL quarterback Drew Brees among its investors. Loyd and LaVine are investing in the Miami Pickleball Club, joining tennis’ Osaka, Nick Kyrgios and Mardy Fish; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes; and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Darius Garland.
“Being one of the women owners in the league—and one of the first WNBA presences—is really special,” said Jones, who now plays for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. “It gives me time to be a part of it from this growing level and start to learn and put my two cents in. It allows me to grow my portfolio and think long-term where I want to be when I’m done with my basketball career.”
Carlsen’s stake is in the AZ Drive, whose owners also include NFL Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker and country music singer Dierks Bentley.
The valuations at which the newcomers bought into the league were not disclosed, nor were details of what size stake each new investor acquired.
Major League Pickleball also officially welcomed internet influencers Dude Perfect into the fold. The group behind one of YouTube’s most popular accounts—which has more than 100 million total followers across social media platforms—bought into MLP’s Frisco-based franchise at a $5 million valuation, league founder Steve Kuhn previously shared with Sportico.
“It is thrilling to add this collection of influential athletes and entertainers to Major League Pickleball’s team ownership groups,” Kuhn said. “Their ability to reach young fans will be a key component in helping MLP and the sport of pickleball continue on our current rapid growth track.”
Pickleball is by far the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., according to data released recently by the SFIA. The league’s other owners include LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Heidi Klum, Eva Longoria and Mark Cuban. Teams have sold for as much as $6 million.
MLP has expanded from eight to 24 teams since its founding in 2021 and now features nearly 100 athletes spread across its co-ed franchises. With relegation and promotion, which is common in many European soccer leagues but not in U.S. sports, 12 of the league’s franchises compete in the top division and another 12 in the lower division.
Last December, MLP announced Margaritaville as its first-ever title sponsor. In January, The Tennis Channel picked up rights to broadcast the league’s upper-tier tournament semifinals and finals in Mesa, Ariz. It will also stream all matches of the tournament.