battle of the sexes billie jean king icon

American tennis great Billie Jean King broke down barriers in her push for equal prize money for women.

She gained both fame and the admiration of fans for her defeat of Bobby Riggs in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" match. Afterward, King acknowledged the pressure she felt that day. "I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match," she said. "It would ruin the women's tour and affect all women's self esteem."

Life magazine (1990) named her one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century." Not sports figures, but Americans. She was the only female athlete on the list, and one of only four athletes (Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali were the others).