Billie Jean King receives 2021 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King is the 2021 recipient of Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award as an “unflinching champion for equality across society.”

The 39-time Grand Slam champion is set to be honored on Tuesday at the Sports Illustrated Awards.

The award, which was renamed in 2015 to bear Ali’s name, is bestowed upon one athlete or former athlete who “best embodies the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world.”

First known as the Sportsman Legacy Award, it was first given out in 2008 and then not again until 2014.

King is the first female recipient of the award since Eunice Shriver was awarded the inaugural award in 2008. Past winners include LeBron James (2020), Colin Kaepernick (2017) and Magic Johnson (2014).

As part of her legacy, King helped form the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973. The WTA has long led the effort for equality in tennis, offering 55 tournaments in 29 countries and $179 million in prize money in 2019. Back in August, she spoke with Just Women’s Sports about what it has meant to be a steward of the sport.

King has also led the creation of the Women’s Sports Foundation, World TeamTennis and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative.