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Friday, June 8, 2012
40 greatest female athletes: Billie Jean King


Billie Jean King
In 1990, Life magazine named Billie Jean King one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century.
ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

Billie Jean King, who spent five years as the No. 1 women's tennis player in the world, won six Wimbledon singles titles, four U.S. Open singles titles and 29 Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles. 

But the victory she will always be remembered for is the Battle of the Sexes against Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome on Sept. 20, 1973.  King, the No. 11 woman in ESPN's countdown, won handily, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, humbling Riggs, educating men and empowering her gender.

"Billie Jean has been so influential in helping women earn more in terms of respect, prize money and other opportunities," says Pam Shriver, a 21-time Grand Slam doubles champ and now an ESPN analyst. "Think of Maria Sharapova or Li Na in China. Commercial opportunities are huge for women tennis players, but women in all sports can tip a cap to Billie Jean."

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:
No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia
No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone
No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton
No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato
No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly
No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi
No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman
No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach
No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher
No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit
No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers
No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman
No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz
No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers
No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw
No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres
No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez
No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins
No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva
No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams
No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan
No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn
No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez
No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale
No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes
No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans
No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt
No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller
No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner