Friday, June 8, 2012
40 greatest female athletes: 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."