Cape Town - Tennis legend Billie Jean King has been honoured at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year show, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award.
King notched up no less than 12 grand slam singles titles, which when added to her women’s and mixed doubles titles, inflates to 39. But more importantly, King was an early advocate for women’s rights and gender equity. The Californian fronted up on the court as well, beating Bobby Riggs in the famous Battle of the Sexes in 1973.
King also founded the Women’s Tennis Association in the same year and the Women’s Sports Foundation 1974, which is a charity focusing on female involvement in sports.
"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," said the 75-year-old at the event.
"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."
Former world number one Andy Murray was also on hand to sing King’s praises.
"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," said the Scot.
"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."