After successfully playing both basketball and softball, Billie Jean King ventured into the world of tennis. King picked up a racquet at the age of 10, sparking an emotion that flooded her body for years.
With an unmatched talent that continuously surfaced on the court, King won a total of:
• 20 Wimbledon championships - three consecutive
• 13 U.S. Open championships – four singles and nine doubles
• four French titles – one single and three doubles
• two Australian Open titles – one single and one double
• 39 Grand Slams
But these titles are only a fraction of her impeccable story.
Her career as a tennis professional may be over, but Billie Jean King has etched her name into history through the charismatic approach over an array of hurdles on and off the court. It was obvious that tennis was not just a sport. The passion that flowed internally helped her deal with the extreme adversity she experienced.
The adversity began when she was unable to be photographed in shorts but rather was forced to sport the typical tennis dress that female athletes wore during that time. Perceiving this as an act of injustice, her battle for equality and pursuit for social advocacy began.
A cause that caught the attention of King was the discrepancy of pay between females and males. King decided to become an advocate for equal pay. She utilized the platform she gained through tennis to speak on behalf of the issue. She spearheaded a foundation called the Women’s Tennis Association. The Women’s Tennis Association lobbied the U.S. Open for equal pay regarding prize money, and in doing so became the first tournament to offer equal prize money to both men and women.
Through her campaign in support of equality, King’s battle gained momentum on a global scale when challenged by Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” after calling women’s tennis inferior. In this battle, King ran the table in all three sets.
In terms of her social life, King had her relationship with Ilana Kloss outed to the public. This caused King to lose multiple endorsements. In 2009, her work as an advocate with women and the LGBTQ community continued to escalate. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian honor and became the first female in history to achieve this feat.
King can be described as many things but most of all she was resilient and dogged in her pursuit of equality. Each controversy was just event which fueled her fight. She inspired millions and created a powerful movement that is still relevant today.