Billie Jean King honoured with BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award

Hannah Wilks in Tennis News 17 Dec 2018
  • Billie Jean King received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony
  • King is the third woman to receive the award
Billie Jean King at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Billie Jean King was honoured with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.




WTA founder and Battle of the Sexes legend Billie Jean King was honoured by the BBC on Sunday when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was first awarded in 1996 and has been given to Seve Ballesteros, George Best, Chris Hoy and Michael Phelps, among others. 

King is the third woman to receive the award after fellow tennis player Martina Navratilova in 2003 and British heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill in 2017. 



King, who is 75 years old, was recognized for her lifetime's work of changing perceptions of women in sport. Winner of 39 Grand Slam titles including 12 in singles, King founded the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) in 1973, the same year that she won the infamous 'Battle of the Sexes' match against Bobby Riggs, who insisted that no female tennis player could beat a good male tennis player. A film was made about the match in 2017 starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell.

King was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2009. The venue that hosts the US Open is named in her honour: The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.

The first female player to earn more than $100,000 in prize money, King was instrumental in campaigning for equal prize money in tennis. 

Former world no. 1 Andy Murray, who has won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award three times, praised King from his off-season training base in Miami.

'She has been a huge advocate for women's rights and equal rights and I think that has translated into tennis, unlike many other sports,' Murray said.

'We have pretty equal prize money across the men's and women's tours, and that is extremely significant. She was advocating for that probably 30-40 years ahead of her time and that is one of the most impressive things she's done.

'She is someone who stood up for what she believed. I imagine at the time she went through a lot, but ultimately she has changed our sport for the better by doing that. More athletes should take her lead.'

King spoke about the significance of diversity, inclusion and representation in her acceptance speech.

'At 12, I had an epiphany while sitting at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. Everybody who played played in white shoes, white clothes, played with white tennis balls and everybody who played tennis was white,' she said.

'At 12, I asked myself, where is everybody else? From that moment on, I committed myself to fight for equality and inclusion for all for the rest of my life.

'At 13, I had the privilege of seeing the great Althea Gibson play. She was the first black player to ever win a major title - the French in 1956 - and for the first time I saw what being the number one player in the world looked like. That's how good you have to be.

'If you can see it, you can be it.

'We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we all have an opportunity to share our lives, our experiences and our vision for the future. Each of us is an influencer, and to all the athletes who truly have a platform, let's continue to use the power of our voices and our actions to inspire others.'

King also presented the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award to cyclist Geraint Thomas, alongside last year's winner Mo Farah. 



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Billie Jean King honoured with BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award

WTA founder and Battle of the Sexes legend Billie Jean King became the third woman to receive the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 BBC Sports Personality awards ceremony

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