Pickleball Craze Reaches New Heights With Riviera Tournament, Network TV Debut

Pickleball is ready for its close-up. The paddle sport — which saw its popularity skyrocket during the pandemic and is now an obsession of such stars as Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew Perry and Jamie Foxx and power players including Ari Emanuel, Jeremy Zimmer and Brian Grazer — is stepping up to the big leagues.

CBS will broadcast the Skechers Invitational Summer Championship on Aug. 13, a Pro Pickleball Association Tour stop (that also features a celebrity competition with star players to be determined) at Hollywood-favored Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. The showing marks the sport’s first network TV broadcast and comes ahead of Pickled, a two-hour primetime celebrity tournament from Stephen Colbert’s Spartina Prods., CBS Studios and Funny or Die that is set to air on CBS and Paramount+ by year’s end.

Also worth noting: Comedy stars June Diane Raphael, Matt Walsh and Jessica St. Clair on the cover of the current issue of InPickleball magazine.

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“Everyone’s talking about it,” says Matt Manasse, who is at the epicenter of the trend as the Riviera’s resident coach and regularly plays with several of the bold-faced names listed above as well as Larry David, Brie Larson, influencer David Dobrik and NFL great Drew Brees. “It’s intergenerational; you can be 8 or 80 and still enjoy your time on the court.”

Manasse adds that a lot of people picked up paddles amid the pandemic because it checked so many boxes — it can be played outdoors, it’s social, athletic and delivers community: “It brings people together, and it can be as competitive as you want it to be. It’s addicting and so fun.”

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Asked for his best projection on pickleball’s future, Manasse, who is a consultant on Pickled, says that over the next 10-15 years, he thinks it can become the largest participatory sport in the world. He went so far as to say that he’s hopeful that by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, pickleball could debut as an introductory sport. “It’s only going to get bigger.”

This story first appeared in the Aug. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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