Pickleball, the sport taking America by storm, explained

Maybe you played it in middle school? Perhaps you’ve seen people playing “little tennis” in a public court near you? Pickleball is becoming one of the fastest growing esports phenomena in US esports and is now attracting big bucks. You might be wondering what the heck pickleball is, why a 57-year-old sport is so hot now, or why you should care — and we’re here to answer those questions.

Pickleball was thrust into the spotlight on Wednesday, when news broke that LeBron James, Draymond Green and Kevin Love were teaming up to buy a pro pickleball team Competition to begin in 2023 as part of MLP (Major League Pickelball) expansion to 16 teams. The trio are arguably MLP’s most notable owners – and their involvement will undoubtedly make more people pay attention to the sport.

What is pickleball?

Pickleball was first invented in Washington in 1965 as a tennis variant for children. It is played on a court with markings similar to tennis, but is less than a third the size and much closer to badminton in dimensions.

Instead of using racquets and traditional tennis balls, the sport initially used lightweight plastic or wooden paddles, but now professional players are using carbon fiber paddles and other advanced materials that balance strength and weight.

One area where the sport hasn’t changed much is the ball itself. We’re still looking at a simple, hollow plastic ball with holes in it – very similar to a wiffle ball. The difference to a tennis ball is significant, as it bounces significantly less due to the lower flex. This, coupled with “no-volley zones” on the court, means players must wait for the ball to bounce and then use speed, agility and flexibility to make shots that are a lot more badminton-like than badminton-like look like professional tennis.

Where is pickleball played?

This is largely a point of contention at present. Some cities build special public pickleball courts, but most players use existing tennis courts. This involves either lowering the net to 34 inches and using rope or tape to mark new lines on the surface – or bringing in portable nets to rearrange courts.

This has drawn the ire of many tennis players. In early August, police in Ocean Beach, California, had to be called into public courts – as disputes between tennis and pickleball players escalated. Similar incidents have also been reported in other parts of the country, where players of both games became heated as they shared the space.

Pickleball players claim that they should also use the courts for free to play their game, especially considering it takes up less space (allowing more people to play at the same time). They believe the game will have minimal impact, particularly on hard courts, and believe it will introduce non-traditional players to racquet-based sports, which of course will also lead to increased interest in tennis.

Tennis players accept that less. Not only do they have concerns about the playing surface being damaged by tape, ropes or temporary netting, they also have noise concerns. The sound of a racquet hitting a plastic ball produces a loud and clear sound compared to tennis. Some believe this noise to be distracting, and in one case Portland residents complained that pickleball courts “impair their quality of life” because of the noise.

Even Pickleball proponents acknowledge that the game’s noise is a problem, and the game is trying to find solutions to fix these problems.

What is Major League Pickleball?

There have been numerous attempts over the years to create a professional pickleball league, but MLP is the newest venture. From 2021, MLP promised to offer players regular sweepstakes and prize money.

Teams are made up of four players, two men and two women – with rosters organized by a snake draft. Teams will compete in singles and doubles competitions in three different events in 2022. The hopes are that if these events are successful, they will expand further in 2023.

MLP is by no means the only current pickleball competition. The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) was formed in 2019 and is currently owned by TopGolf owner Thomas Dundon and the Carolina Hurricanes. The PPA has banned its players from also competing in MLP, opening up a rivalry between the two leagues.

how do i watch this

MLP currently does not own any broadcasting rights. Events and the draft will be streamed on YouTube. There is hope that with growing interest coupled with the involvement of NBA players as team owners, a network could get the rights in the future.

The next event will be held October 14-16 in Columbus, Ohio.

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