Major League Pickleball announced full rosters, team names, and locations this week, with more high-profile athletes already joining the star-studded ownership groups for the expanding 24-team league in 2023.
NBA legend Jeremy Lin, Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes, and four-time tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka are some of the latest stars to plunge into the pickle spree. They’ve joined the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. Non-athletes include entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, country music artist Dierks Bentley, and American model Kate Upton.
“The diversity and expertise in the histories of our wonderful new owners is an incredible asset as we aggressively expand Major League Pickleball to reach more fans than ever before,” said Brian Levine, CEO of MLP by Margaritaville Interim. “We always say that pickles bring people together, and this diverse cast of leaders is a powerful testament to that philosophy.”
Pickle teams have been a good way for sports figures old and new to unite and represent their cities. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki have teamed up with Dallas Pickleball Club. Meanwhile, former Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker are partial owners of Arizona pickle team AZ Drive.
MLP debuted with eight teams in 2021 and expanded to 12 teams in 2022. The upcoming season will double in size and include six events and $5 million in prize money.
The new owners chose their teams during the MLP Challenger Level Draft on Monday. The 12 new teams will start the 2023 season by competing at the Challenger Level in the first half of the year and move to the Premier Level in the second half. The other 12 established teams will start at Premier Tier and then move up to Challenger Tier.
Former tennis player Sam Querrey, who has won 10 ATP Tour titles and reached a Wimbledon semi-final, has been selected as the first pick for the Challenger Level Draft by DC Pickleball Club, partly owned by German soccer star Mesut Ӧzil and New York Mets pitcher. Justin Verlander, among others.
Challenger Tier team names, rosters and owners:
Cast: Hunter Johnson, Brooke Buckner, Ben Newell and Christine McGrath
Team Owners: Anheuser-Busch
Cast: Wes Burrows, Sarah Ansboury, Andreas Siljestrom and Sarah Burr
Team Owners: Larry Fitzgerald, Devin Booker, Dierks Bentley, Robert Gary, Doug Hirsch, Sheila Gulati, John Merwin, Sam Frakes, Mark Dalton and Richard J. Schnall
Bay Area Breakers
Cast: Pablo Tellez, Ewa Radzikowska, Christian Alshon and Rachel Summers
Team Owners: Jeremy Lin, Mimi Mercado, David Mercado, Geoff Nguyen, Stacey Nishi, Jeff Nishi, Wayley Louie and Kathleen Louie
Cast: Cierra Gaytan-Leach, Rob Nunnery, Corinne Carr and Greg Dow
Team Owners: Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35V
Cast: Susannah Barr, Emily Ackerman, Connor Garnett, Ryler DeHeart
Team Owners: Ron Saslow’s 35 Capital, Heidi Klum, Tom Ricketts, David Justice, Doug Ellin, Chris Evert, Lindsay Davenport, Tracy Austin, Gigi Fernández, David Dobrik, Joe Bonamassa, Ted Foxman and Steve Bellamy
Columbus Pickle Club
Cast: Milan Rane, Becky Ryan, Yates Johnson and CJ Klinger
Team Owners: David Kass, Doug Ulman
Dallas Pickle Club
Cast: Megan Fudge, Chuck Taylor, Brandon French and Christa Gecheva
Team Owners: Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, John Isner, Robert Herjavec, Chandler Parsons and Todd Wagner
DC Pickle Set
Cast: Sam Querrey, Stefan Auvergne, Shelby Bates and Monica Paolicelli
Team Owners: Al Tylis, Sam Porter, Eva Longoria, Justin Verlander, Mesut Ӧzil, Kate Upton, Shawn Marion and Rip Hamilton
Miami Pickle Club
Cast: Alix Truong, Regina Franco, Jeff Warnick and Matt Manasse
Team Owners: Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios, Patrick Mahomes, Rich Paul, Darius Garland, Mardy Fish and Disruptive Sports Group’s Alex Davis, Alex Cohen at Heights, Stuart Duguid, The Palm Tree Crew, Prakash Amritraj, Matthew Pritzker, Mark Ein , Romie Chaudhari, Swimmy Minami
Cast: Lee Whitwell, Pat Smith, Genie Erokhina and Steve Deakin
Team Owners: Tim Klitch, Dan Ferreri, Bryan Sheffield, Kit Sheffield and Richard Veitenheimer
Utah Black Diamonds
Cast: Michelle Esquivel, Spencer Smith, Olivia McMillan and Rob Cassidy
Team Owners: The Pardoe Family
Cast: Bobbi Oshiro, Callan Dawson, Rachel Rettger and Todd Fought
Team Owners: TBA