Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is “stunned” but “delighted” that his favorite sport, pickleball, has become the fastest growing sport in America, he said in a blog post on Tuesday. dedicated to the game he has been playing for over 50 years.
Pickleball – which Gates described as a “mixture of tennis, badminton and ping-pong” – has grown in popularity in recent years, but Gates has been playing his whole life, he wrote on Tuesday.
Gates said he thinks the sport is gaining momentum in part because the game is so simple to learn and easy to play, writing that anyone “from super young to super old” can participate with just a net, a paddle and a ball.
But Gates thinks the best part about pickleball is that “it’s just super fun”, adding that he plays with his 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.
Gates has a personal connection to the origins of pickleball. The game was invented in the summer of 1965 by three neighbors in Washington State whose children complained of boredom: Joel Pritchard (a state legislator who was later elected Lieutenant Governor of Washington), Barney McCallum and Bill Bell. Gates’ father, Bill Sr., was friends with the three men, and in the late 1960s he set up a pickleball court at the Gates family home in Seattle. In a 2018 CNBC interview, Melinda French Gates, then-wife of Bill Gates, said she and Bill – who announced their divorce last year – “played a crazy game called pickleball” in their spare time, Bill teaching her the game shortly after they started dating.
We estimate that Bill Gates is worth $103.9 billion, making him the fifth richest person in the world. Melinda French Gates is worth $5.6 billion.
With roots in the Pacific Northwest, pickleball has been widely 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 continued to gain momentum even after the shutdowns ended, and in February pickleball was named the nation’s fastest growing sport for the second straight year by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Pickleball has 48.8 million players nationwide, an increase of nearly 40% from two years ago, the group found.