The expanded 24-team league will feature six events and $5 million in prize money
By Isabel Gonzalez Dec 20, 2022
Major League Pickleball released full rosters, team names, and locations this week, along with more high-profile athletes who are joining the already star-studded ownership groups for the expanded 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 jump into the pickleball craze. They join 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 in the backgrounds and expertise of our fantastic new owners is an incredible asset as we aggressively expand Major League Pickleball to reach more fans than ever," MLP by Margaritaville Interim CEO Brian Levine said in a statement. "We always say pickleball brings people together, and this roster of leaders from across a wide variety of industries is a strong testament to that philosophy."
The pickleball teams have been a good way for former and current sports figures to unite and represent their cities. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki teamed up with the Dallas Pickleball Club. Meanwhile, former Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker are part owners of the Arizona pickleball team AZ Drive.
MLP debuted in 2021 with eight teams and expanded to 12 teams in 2022. It is doubling next season and will feature six events and $5 million in prize money.
The new owners selected their teams on Monday during the MLP Challenger Level Draft. The 12 new teams will start the 2023 season competing in the Challenger Level in the first half of the year and switch to the Premier Level in the second half. The other 12 established teams will start in the Premier Level and later switch to the Challenger Level.
Former tennis player Sam Querrey, who won 10 ATP Tour titles and reached a Wimbledon semifinal, was selected as the first pick of the Challenger Level Draft by D.C. Pickleball Club, which is owned in part by German soccer star Mesut Ӧzil and New York Mets pitcher Justin Verlander, among others.
Challenger Level team names, rosters and owners:
Atlanta Bouncers Roster: Hunter Johnson, Brooke Buckner, Ben Newell, and Christine McGrath Team Owners: Anheuser-Busch
AZ Drive Roster: 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 Roster: 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
Brooklyn Aces Roster: Cierra Gaytan-Leach, Rob Nunnery, Corinne Carr, and Greg Dow Team Owners: Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman's 35V
Chicago Slice Roster: 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 Pickleball Club Roster: Milan Rane, Becky Ryan, Yates Johnson, and CJ Klinger Team Owners: David Kass, Doug Ulman
Dallas Pickleball Club Roster: Megan Fudge, Chuck Taylor, Brandon French, and Christa Gecheva Team Owners: Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, John Isner, Robert Herjavec, Chandler Parsons, and Todd Wagner
D.C. Pickleball Team Roster: 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 Pickleball Club Roster: Alix Truong, Regina Franco, Jeff Warnick, and Matt Manasse Team Owners: Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios, Patrick Mahomes, Rich Paul, Darius Garland, Mardy Fish and Alex Davis at Disruptive Sports Group, Alex Cohen at Heights, Stuart Duguid, The Palm Tree Crew, Prakash Amritraj, Matthew Pritzker, Mark Ein, Romie Chaudhari, Swimmy Minami
Texas Ranchers Roster: 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 Roster: Michelle Esquivel, Spencer Smith, Olivia McMillan, and Rob Cassidy Team Owners: The Pardoe Family
Valhalla Volleys Roster: Bobbi Oshiro, Callan Dawson, Rachel Rettger, and Todd Fought Team Owners: TBA