A Timeline of Accomplishments
She’s a game-changer in every sense of the word. Discover her remarkable achievements, awards, and distinctions to understand how Billie Jean King earned her place in history.
1967: Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year selection.
1971: First female athlete in any sport to earn more than $100,000 in prize money in a single season ($117,000).
1971: Was one of nine players who broke away from the tennis establishment and accepted $1 contracts from tennis promoter Gladys Heldman in Houston. This revolt led to the birth of women’s professional tennis and the formation of the Virginia Slims Tour and Women’s Tennis Association.
1972: First woman to be chosen Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year.”
1973: Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year selection.
1973: Successfully lobbied for equal prize money for men and women at the US Open. It would take another 34 years for all four major tournaments to offer equal prize money.
1973: Founded the Women’s Tennis Association.
1973: Defeated Bobby Riggs in one of the greatest moments in sports history, the Battle of the Sexes.
1974: Co-founded World TeamTennis (WTT), the revolutionary professional tennis league.
1974: Became the only woman in history to win U.S. singles titles on all four surfaces on which the tournament has been played: grass, carpet, clay, and hard court.
1974: First woman to coach a co‐ed team in professional sports (Philadelphia Freedoms, WTT)
1974: Elton John wrote his No. 1 hit Philadelphia Freedom for Billie Jean to congratulate her on co-founding WTT and playing and coaching for the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team.
1974: Founded the Women’s Sports Foundation.
“THE MORE YOU KNOW ABOUT HISTORY, THE MORE YOU KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF.”
1984: First woman commissioner in professional sports history (World TeamTennis).
1990: Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by LIFE magazine.
1992: Together with longtime friend Elton John, founded World TeamTennis (WTT) Smash Hits, an annual all-star charity tennis match, which has raised more than $14 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
1999: Named one of the Greatest Athletes of the Century by Sports Illustrated.
1999: Recipient of the 1999 Arthur Ashe Courage Award for her conviction as a risk-taker and for lobbying for equality.
2003: One of six inaugural inductees into the Court of Fame at the USTA National Tennis Center.
2006 – 2008
2006: Honored on August 28, 2006, when the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of her contributions to tennis, sports, and society both on and off the court. She was the first woman to have a major sports venue named in her honor.
2008: Authored Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes to commemorate the 35th anniversary of her historic 1973 match against Bobby Riggs.
2008: Appointed Global Mentor for Gender Equality by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
2009 – 2017
2009: Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on August 12, 2009. The first female athlete to be honored with the Medal of Freedom, King was presented the award by President Obama in ceremonies at The White House.
2009: Recipient of the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award.
2010: Honored with Major League Baseball’s Beacon of Change Award in 2010.
2014: In partnership with Teneo Strategy, launched the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative to address inclusion and diversity issues in the workplace.
2014: Named to the Presidential Delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics.
2017: Billie Jean King is the subject of Battle of the Sexes, a Fox Searchlight film starring Emma Stone as Billie Jean and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs.
2018 – Present
2018: Served as a Grand Marshal of the New York City Pride March.
2018: Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss join the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group.
2018: Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
2019: ESPN establishes the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award as part of the Sports Humanitarian Awards.
2019: The Billie Jean King Main Library opens in Billie Jean’s hometown of Long Beach, California.
2020: Billie Jean King becomes the first woman to have a major sporting event named after her when Fed Cup is renamed the Billie Jean King Cup.
2021: Sports Illustrated honors Billie Jean King with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.