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Major Shake-Up in Pro Pickleball: Major League Pickleball, PPA, Billionaire Rivalries and the Sport’s Future

pro player hitting ball
(Image credit: Nick Uzunyan)

Not sure if you have seen the Forbes article that was recently published, but there are some big shifts happening and I wanted to break things down to the gist and then give my opinion on the situation.

  1. Major League Pickleball (MLP) Moves: MLP has started signing top pickleball players to multi-year, guaranteed contracts. These contracts offer significant benefits, including high salaries, travel and lodging coverage, healthcare, an off-season, and exclusivity to MLP.
  2. Impact on Other Associations: This move by MLP is a significant challenge to the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Players (APP). The APP, in particular, may lose its top talent for the second year in a row.
  3. Collapse of PPA-MLP Merger: The merger between PPA and MLP, which was agreed upon in November 2022, has collapsed. This led to a rush between the two tours to sign players.
  4. Different Visions: The PPA and MLP have contrasting visions for the future of professional pickleball. While PPA believes in a touring model similar to other racquet sports, MLP prefers a team competition/franchise model, akin to major leagues like the NFL and NBA.
  5. Tensions Between Funders: There’s a rivalry between the billionaires funding the PPA (Tom Dundon) and MLP (Steve Kuhn). Despite an agreement in the previous year, tensions have been evident, with both wanting more influence in the sport.
  6. Financial Implications: The breakup of the merger has financial consequences. Both Dundon and Pardoe had received MLP franchises, valued at around $10M, and a 20% ownership share in MLP. This value is now likely lost.
  7. Player Signings: As of the article’s publication, MLP has signed at least 30 players, most of whom were exclusive to PPA in 2023. PPA has managed to retain some of its top players, but the majority have moved to MLP.
  8. Concerns for the Future: The article raises several questions about the future of both tours, including the fate of exclusive players, the ownership of the two MLP franchises, the draws for the rest of the season, and the implications for TV deals.
  9. Impact on Fans: The split in talent between the PPA and MLP is detrimental for fans. The dominance of certain players, like Johns and Waters, is now even more pronounced as their main competitors have moved to MLP.
  10. Pro Game Importance: The professional game is crucial for the sport as it drives innovation, sponsorship, TV deals, and financial investments.


The recent developments in the professional pickleball world highlight the challenges that arise when financial interests and visions for a sport’s future clash. While it’s commendable that players are getting opportunities for better contracts and benefits, the split between PPA and MLP is concerning for the sport’s growth and its fans.

Having two competing entities with different visions can lead to fragmentation, which might confuse new fans and dilute the sport’s brand. The rivalry between the billionaires funding these entities seems to be more about personal egos and less about the sport’s best interests.

For fans, the split means they won’t get to see the best players compete against each other regularly, which diminishes the excitement and competitiveness of the tournaments. The potential weakening of TV deals and sponsorships could also slow down the sport’s growth.

In the long run, for the sport to thrive, there needs to be a unified vision and collaboration between the major stakeholders. It’s essential to prioritize the game and its fans over individual interests.

Thoughts? Leave a comment below.

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About Dan Langston

With experience in the ecotourism industry and time well spent as a fly fishing guide in the remote absaroka mountain range for 6 years, Dan brings a unique perspective on customer service to the digital world. As the operator, Dan is now committed to revitalizing Pickleball Portal and plans to build a support system for content creators and provide helpful information for the pickleball community. dan@pickleballportal.com

5 thoughts on “Major Shake-Up in Pro Pickleball: Major League Pickleball, PPA, Billionaire Rivalries and the Sport’s Future”

  1. These battles carry over into the amateur experience as well.

    Kuhn owns pickleball central and dupr and pickleball brackets, correct? And is building dupr team “waterfall” tournaments leading to “platinum” tickets and his own national championship? Monopolistic at best.

    And yes, rally scoring etc (not necessarily a bad thing).

    I would like to see usapa step up and “own” the amateur side of things. Feels like a major squeeze play where the amateur side is just a pawn.

  2. My concern is that we won’t have the opportunity to ” play where the pros play” and be able to watch them after our amateur matches.

  3. “Major League Pickleball” totally sounds like some billionaire’s toy that I have zero interest in supporting. Pro tour tickets and player-branded merch aren’t where I’ll spend money to increase pickleball interest and access.


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