"Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose - it teaches you about life." - BILLIE JEAN KING
In 1990 Life Magazine named Billie Jean King one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th Century. Only three other athletes, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, made the list.
With 39 Grand Slam titles to her name, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon, Billie Jean King is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She held the world #1 ranking in women’s tennis for six of the ten years from 1966 through 1975.
Known for her lightning-fast speed, forceful net game, and fierce backhand, Billie Jean’s tennis championship titles are only half her story.
Off the court, Billie Jean campaigned for equal prize money in the men’s and women’s games. In 1970, she joined the Virginia Slims Tour for women, and in 1971, King became the first woman athlete to earn over $100,000 in prize money. Yet when she won the U.S. Open in 1972, she received $15,000 less than the men’s champion,Ilie Năstase.
In 1973, at the height of her competitive years, Billie Jean leveraged her position to spearhead the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association and became its first president. She lobbied for equal prize money for men and women at the U.S. Open, and a sponsor was found to level the playing field. The U.S. Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money to both sexes.
Read more about the amazing work she continues to do for women in sports here.