Here’s Why Pickleball—The Fastest-Growing Sport In America—Is Bill Gates’ Favorite Game

Topline

Billionaire Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is “stunned” but “delighted” that his favorite sport—picleball—has become the fastest-growing sport in America, he said Tuesday in a blog post dedicated to the game he has played for more than 50 years.

Key Facts

Pickleball—which Gates described as a “mash up of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong”—has surged in popularity over the past few years, but Gates has been playing his entire life, he wrote Tuesday.

Gates said he thinks the sport’s gaining traction is partly because the game is so simple to learn and easy to play, writing that everyone “from the super young and super old” can take part with just a net, paddle and ball.

But Gates thinks the best part about pickleball is that “it’s just super fun,” adding that he plays with friends and family at least once a week, and usually more often in the summer months.

The blog post included a video featuring clips and photographs of Gates playing pickleball.

Surprising Fact

Gates has a personal connection to pickleball’s origins. The game was invented in the summer of 1965 by three neighbors from Washington state whose children complained of boredom: Joel Pritchard (a state legislator who was later elected Washington’s lieutenant governor), Barney McCallum and Bill Bell. Gates’ father Bill Sr. was friends with the three men, and in the late 1960’s, he installed a pickleball court at the Gates family home in Seattle. In a 2018 CNBC interview, Bill Gates’ then-wife Melinda French Gates said she and Bill—who announced their divorce last year—“play a crazy game called pickleball” in their downtime, with Bill teaching her the game shortly after they started dating .

Forbes Valuation

We estimate Bill Gates to be worth $103.9 billion, making him the world’s fifth-wealthiest person. Melinda French Gates is worth $5.6 billion.

Key Background

With roots in the Pacific Northwest, pickleball was largely played in the Seattle area for decades. Its popularity grew slowly before exploding amid the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, in part because the game can be played on makeshift courts in driveways and on sidewalks. However, the sport has continued to gain traction even as lockdowns ended, and in February, pickleball was named the country’s fastest growing sport for the second year in a row by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Pickleball has 48.8 million players nationwide, an increase of nearly 40% over two years ago, the group found.

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