As she marks her 80th birthday, the enduring legacy of Billie Jean King

Ilana Kloss, a 10-year-old ball kid in Johannesburg, South Africa, had a life-changing moment in 1966 when Billie Jean King invited her to hit some tennis balls, three months before King won her first Wimbledon title. This life-changing encounter in Kloss’s childhood home was the moment she decided to become a professional tennis player, setting her on a path that led to her partnership with King, her present day wife in 2018. King’s influence on the world’s perceptions of equality in women’s tennis has been extensive. Kloss speaks of her admiration for King in terms of being able to see the court from a higher perspective. Today, both Kloss and King continue to work toward their shared goals. King’s legacy on women’s rights stands parallel to that of others such as Ida Wells and Gloria Steinem. Kloss and King have been integral in the restarting of a professional women’s hockey league in 2024. King is also notable for spearheading the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association and the push for equal prize money in 1973 at the US Open. Her impactful win in “the Battle of the Sexes” may have done more to change perceptions than anything else.

King’s visions continue to come to fruition. Just this year, King was on hand to witness the extraordinary turnout for the FIFA Women’s World Cup final and an audience for women’s sports surpassing that of a Wimbledon men’s final. Women’s professional soccer and basketball leagues also continue to succeed as a result of King and Kloss’s work toward gender equality in sports. King and Kloss aim to improve sports media coverage, which currently stands at 15 percent. Their goal is to ensure that women in sports are known and followed as equally as men, and they believe they are on track to reach that goal.


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