Athlete Spotlight: Billie Jean King, Former Queen of the Court
Name: Billie Jean King
Country: United States
Height: 5’ 5’’ Weight: 130 lbs.
Date of Birth: November 22, 1943
Accomplishments: The 1999 Arthur Ashe Courage Award, World No. 1 Tennis Player, Time Persons of the Year, 11 mixed doubles titles, 39 Grand Slam titles, Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year
Billie Jean King, an American former World No.1 tennis player, won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 11 mixed doubles, 12 singles, and 16 women’s doubles titles. King married Larry King on September 17, 1965 in California. She had an abortion in 1971 and this news became public because her husband added her name in the list of prominent women in the premiere issue of Ms. Magazine. The couple divorced in 1987.
In May 1981, King acknowledged her relationship with her secretary Marilyn Barnett. She became the first prominent professional female tennis player to come out as a lesbian. The same year, King told she wanted to retire from competitive tennis, however, she could not afford due to the lawsuit filed by Barnett.
At the inaugural WTA Tour Championships, the tennis player won the singles title. King represented the US frequently in the Wightman Cup and the Federation Cup. In addition to this, she was a part of the United States team that won in nine Wightman Cups and seven Federation Cups. The star player was the caption of the US team for three years in the Federation Cup.
In 1967, she was the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. King is also an advocate for gender equality. King was the founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation, World Team Tennis (with her ex-husband), and Women’s Tennis Association. She also won the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award in 1972 with joint winner John Wooden. In 1972, she was one of the Time Persons of the Year.
In 1973, she played the Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs and won the game. Further, the decorated player received the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year lifetime achievement award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1987, the former world No.1 professional tennis player was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The USTA National Tennis Center (New York City) was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006. In 2010, she was bestowed with the Fed Cup Award of Excellence.
King was no ordinary woman; she was not only the best tennis player but also an actor. In 2007, she played a judge on Law & Order and also made an appearance on Ugly Betty in 2009.
King published her book “Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes” in 2008. Currently, she has residences in Chicago and New York with her life partner, Ilana Kloss. King has worked for GBLT since her retirement. She promotes the Gay and Lesbian rights actively in the United States. Additionally, she serves on the Elton John AIDS campaign and the Women’s sport foundation.
“Champions keep playing until they get it right,” said the tennis star.