What the #1 Men's Pickleball Player Makes in a Year

Image of pro pickleball player Ben Johns holding a trophy during a PPA Tour stop.

Ben Johns recently told CNBC that he'll clear $2.5 million in salary this year, not including income from endorsements or sponsorships.

The 25-year-old pickleball phenom is probably the most well-known player next to his regular doubles partner, the worldwide top-ranked player Anna Leigh Waters.

As of May 13, 2024, Ben has 123 PPA Tour titles under his belt. 

If a six-figure salary isn't impressive enough, consider that Ben's salary increased by over 900% in only about two years. In 2021, his salary was $250,000, according to CNBC.

Meanwhile, the average salary for an NHL player sits at $2.6 million.

Let that sink in:

  • Organized hockey has over 100 years' head start on pickleball's inception
  • Pickleball was only invented in the 1960s
  • Organized pickleball has only received hardcore investment from outside sponsors within the last few years

We couldn't help but wonder how Ben's annual income compares with athletes' in other sports.

Top Pickleball Salary vs. Those in Other Sports

Our findings demonstrate that pickleball has come a long way in a remarkably short time in terms of outside investments and capital growth considering the sport's more recent establishment of pro-level league play.

Here are the average salaries of players in other popular sports:

  • $8.32 million - pro basketball
  • $3.26 million - pro football
  • $4.03 million - pro baseball

Equity in Pro Pickleball Salaries

While pickleball's tremendous growth over the last few years is undoubtedly the reason behind the investments which make Ben and other players' high salaries possible, we can't help but wonder if there's also a "personality effect" in sports right now.

Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever basketball team is a great example. She's driven increased ticket sales and viewing ratings for both her team and the WNBA in general.

Clearly, now is a good time to be a bright personality in an "underdog" sport. 

Pickleball players will tell you their game is an underdog in the sports community, but financially, the numbers are starting to tell a different story

The average salary in the WNBA was $147,745 in 2023, meaning Ben Johns makes over 177% more than the average women's pro basketball player.

While we don't have much public data available on pickleball's top female athletes' salaries, we know Anna Leigh Waters made $1 million last year.

Read Next: First Ever By-Women, For-Women Pickleball Event to Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer Research

If that's true, pickleball is currently the only place where female athletes can earn salaries comparable to the pros of other popular sports (except for golf and tennis).

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