From Paddle to Profit: Ben Johns and the Multi-Million Dollar Surge of Pickleball

In the world of sports, few stories resonate like that of a dark horse rising to the top. But when that ascent includes transforming a backyard pastime into a lucrative profession, it captures the imagination of fans and skeptics alike. This is the tale of Ben Johns, who ventured from the quiet pickleball courts of suburban neighborhoods to the bright lights of multimillion-dollar tournaments, changing not just his life but also the landscape of the sport itself.


Pickleball, traditionally seen as leisurely fun, has recently witnessed an explosive surge in popularity and financial investment. This transformation has been so profound that players like Johns aren't just playing for love of the game—they're signing paychecks that rival those of established athletes in more mainstream sports. At the heart of this evolution is a series of investments and cultural shifts that have redefined what it means to be a professional pickleball player in today's world.

As we delve deeper into this phenomenon, we explore how pickleball's simplicity and accessibility have fueled its rise, the strategic moves by private equity to upscale its market, and how personalities like Ben Johns have not only benefited but also helped steer this wave of prosperity.

II. The Pickleball Boom


The rapid ascent of pickleball from a niche hobby to a mainstream sport is nothing short of remarkable. At its core, the game is accessible—requiring minimal equipment and space, making it easy for newcomers to join. However, its simplicity belies the sophisticated network of players, enthusiasts, and investors who have propelled its popularity to new heights.

Surging Participation

The last decade has seen a meteoric rise in pickleball participation. Community centers, local parks, and retirement villages have seen their courts bustling with activity, reflecting a diverse demographic from teenagers to seniors. The sport's inclusive nature fosters a welcoming environment, encouraging people of all ages and skills to pick up a paddle. As of the latest surveys, over 4.8 million Americans are active pickleball players, a number that has grown by an impressive 21.3% in the last year alone.

Impact of Investments

The allure of pickleball has not only captured the hearts of players but also the eyes of savvy investors. Recent years have seen significant private equity injections into various facets of the sport. For instance, the acquisition of Pickleball Central by Navarro Capital stands out as a pivotal moment, signaling confidence in the sport's commercial potential. These investments have facilitated enhancements in infrastructure, marketing, and player development, setting the stage for a more professional and polished pickleball scene.

Rise of Professional Leagues


Alongside financial investments, the establishment of professional leagues has fundamentally altered the pickleball landscape. The Major Professional Pickleball Association (MLP) and the Premier Pickleball League (PPL) have not only provided platforms for showcasing top talent but also increased the stakes of the game with heftier prize money and enhanced sponsorship opportunities. The professionalization of pickleball has not just elevated the sport's prestige but also its profitability, attracting a global audience and sponsors keen on tapping into this burgeoning market.

The transformation of pickleball from a casual pastime to a sport with professional leagues and significant financial backing illustrates a shift in how new sports can ascend to prominence. As we continue, we'll delve into the life and career of Ben Johns, whose journey mirrors the sport's rise and highlights the opportunities that now come with professional pickleball.

III. Ben Johns: The Pickleball Millionaire

Ben Johns' journey from an ambitious but struggling professional athlete to a pickleball powerhouse encapsulates the sport's potential for dramatic personal and professional growth. His story is not just about athletic prowess; it's about seizing opportunities in a rapidly growing sport and shaping its future.

Early Days and Rise to Stardom

Originally a college student playing tennis, Ben Johns stumbled upon pickleball almost by serendipity. Quickly recognizing his natural affinity for the game, he pivoted his focus entirely to pickleball. His early days in the sport were marked by determination and a relentless pursuit of mastery. Johns rose through the ranks with astonishing speed, fueled by a blend of raw talent and strategic gameplay. His breakthrough came when he clinched his first national title, setting the stage for a career that would soon be laden with trophies and accolades.

Breaking Down the $2.5 Million Salary

Today, Ben Johns stands as the highest-earning player in the realm of professional pickleball, with an annual salary crossing the $2.5 million mark. This income is a combination of tournament winnings, where he frequently outplays the competition, and a series of lucrative endorsement deals with leading sports brands. His earnings are a testament not only to his skill but also to the growing financial viability of pickleball as a professional sport. Comparatively, while still lower than top athletes in mainstream sports, Johns' earnings reflect a significant shift in non-traditional sports compensation.

Business Ventures and Investments

Beyond the court, Johns has shown a keen business acumen. He has invested in pickleball-related startups and partnered with equipment manufacturers to develop products that bear his name and expertise. These ventures not only expand his income streams but also contribute to the sport's growth by introducing innovative technologies and products. His endorsements and partnerships have set a precedent, encouraging other players to explore similar opportunities.

Personal Insights


In interviews, Ben often discusses his passion for pickleball and his vision for its future. His anecdotes about late-night practices and strategic game planning reveal a dedicated athlete whose life revolves around the sport. Johns is not just playing for today; he's building a legacy that he hopes will inspire future generations to embrace and elevate pickleball.

Ben Johns' story is more than a tale of individual success; it reflects the broader narrative of pickleball's evolution from a backyard recreation to a professional sport offering viable careers. As we look forward, the potential for pickleball seems limitless, mirroring the ambition and foresight of players like Johns.

IV. The Future of Pickleball

As pickleball continues to carve out its niche in the sports world, the future looks exceedingly bright. The game’s evolution is marked by expanding global interest, technological advancements, and a solidifying professional structure that promises to elevate the sport to unprecedented levels.

Continued Growth and Mainstream Acceptance

The trajectory of pickleball’s growth suggests it is on the verge of mainstream acceptance. Participation rates continue to soar as more people discover the sport's accessibility and appeal. This increasing player base is likely to drive further viewership, both online and in-person, potentially catching the attention of major sports broadcasters. With increased media coverage, pickleball could soon find itself a staple in sports programming, akin to more established sports.

Strategic Developments in the Sport

Recent strategic mergers, like the fusion of the Major League Pickleball (MLP) and the Premier Pickleball League (PPL) into the Premier Pickleball Tour (PPT), signify a move towards a more unified and professional league system. This consolidation is expected to streamline competitions and attract bigger sponsorships and investments. The result is likely to be an increase in prize money and, consequently, player salaries, further professionalizing the sport.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Despite its promising future, pickleball faces several challenges that could shape its trajectory. Key among these is the need for more dedicated facilities to accommodate its growing player base. The development of pickleball-specific infrastructure, from courts to training centers, will be crucial. Additionally, nurturing a pipeline of talent through youth programs and local leagues will ensure the sport’s sustainability and competitive excellence.

Expanding into new markets, particularly in regions where racket sports have a strong foothold, offers significant opportunities. By adapting marketing strategies to local cultures and investing in grassroots campaigns, pickleball can entrench itself globally.

The Role of Innovations

Technological innovations in equipment design, player training, and match analytics are set to revolutionize how pickleball is played and viewed. Advances such as smart paddles that track player performance and virtual reality platforms for training could enhance player development and fan engagement, bringing a new dimension to the sport.


The remarkable journey of pickleball, exemplified by the success of athletes like Ben Johns, is a testament to what passion and innovation can achieve in sports. As we reflect on the milestones reached and the opportunities ahead, it's clear that pickleball is not just a fleeting trend but a sport with a robust future, ready to make a lasting impact on the global sports landscape.

Pickleball's story is one of rapid ascent and boundless potential. For enthusiasts, players, and investors alike, the sport offers a unique blend of community, excitement, and opportunity. As we look to the future, the message is clear: the world of pickleball is just getting started.