Billie Jean King, born November 22, 1943, is a former American tennis player who won 39 major titles throughout her career. She has represented the United States in seven Federation Cups and nine Wightman Cups. She was also the U.S. captain in the Federation Cup for three years. King has been an advocate for gender equality and has founded two women-centric organizations, the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation. King is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players in history and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2020, the Federation Cup was renamed The Billie Jean King Cup to honor her illustrious career.
King was born in Long Beach, California into a very conservative Methodist family to parents Better and Bill Moffit. She excelled at baseball and softball as a child but switched to tennis at the age of 11 because her parents insisted she find a more ‘ladylike’ sport. She bought her own racquet for $8, with money she saved on her own, and learned the sport alongside a school friend through free tennis lessons offered by Clyde Walker. King attended Los Angeles State College after graduating high school in 1961. She eventually dropped out to focus on tennis, but not before meeting Larry King, whom she later married.
King began competing in 1959 and made her Grand Slam debut at the U.S. Championship that same year when she was just 15. Unfortunately, she lost in the first round. She began playing in local, regional, and national championships immediately after. The following year, she won the Philadelphia and District Grass Court Championships. King began gaining international recognition in 1961 when Long Beach Tennis Patrons, the Century Club, and Harold Guiver raised $2,000 to send her to Wimbledon, where she won the women’s doubles title with partner Karen Hantze. The pair repeated their victory in 1962. Throughout her career, King won 39 major titles. She has been an advocate for gender equality for a long time and has even founded two organizations dedicated to serving the rights of women in tennis and sports as a whole — the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation. In 1973, King defeated Bobby Riggs during a The Battle of the Sexes match. King was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2020, the Federation Cup was renamed The Billie Jean King Cup to honor her.
King remained married to her husband from 1965 to 1987, when she fell in love with her doubles partner, Iliana Kloss. Larry and King, though, remained close after that and she served as godmother to Larry’s son from his following marriage. Kloss and King got married in 2018 by former New York City Mayor, David Dinkins, in a secret ceremony.
King begins competing.
King wins her first tournament.
King competes in her first Wimbledon.
King gets inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Why We Love Billie Jean King
She’s a legend
King is a tennis legend. The former athlete made history!
King is an outspoken advocate for gender equality. Her work towards achieving gender equality is very inspiring.
She’s a queer icon
King was one of the first female athletes to be openly queer. We appreciate all that she has done for L.G.B.T.+ representation within the field of sports.
5 Surprising Facts
She wanted to be a preacher
King wanted to be a preacher growing up.
She was denied a tennis scholarship
King was denied a tennis scholarship from Los Angeles State College because of her gender.
First woman Sportsperson of the Year
King was the first woman to be deemed the Sportsperson of the Year by “Sports Illustrated.”
She is friends with Elton John
King is friends with musician Elton John.
He wrote a song about her work
John’s song ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ was written in King’s honor.
Billie Jean King FAQs
Did Billie Jean King win the Battle of the Sexes?
Yes, she defeated Riggs in 1973.
What is Billie Jean King's famous quote?
King is known for the quote, “A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning. Champions keep playing until they get it right.”
What was Title 9 created for?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 required that “no person be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination based on sex under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Billie Jean King’s birthday dates