Nothing but ‘love’ for Billie Jean King


Erick Cabrera

Billie Jean King holds 39 Grand Slam Titles, 12 singles titles, 16 women’s doubles titles and 11 mixed double titles

Before there were women’s tennis pros like Serena and Venus Williams, Chris Evert or Monica Seeles, there was the former No. 1 tennis player in the world, Billie Jean King.

Many students on campus have been curious about who the new statue in front of the gym would be dedicated to. It was placed this past summer and appeared to be under construction for a while. It has finally been revealed to be a statue in the likeness of King, a former student-athlete of Cal State LA.

King has a long list of accolades that include founding the Women’s Tennis Association, winning 39 Grand Slam titles, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and advocating for women athletes, LGBTQ rights and equal pay in tennis, according to

“She casts an amazing rainbow over our [tennis] program. We talk about her a great deal,” said Richard Gallien, the women’s tennis head coach since 2019. “She’s meant a great deal to me, long before Cal State Los Angeles. I was a huge fan of hers in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I actually ball boy-ed for her a couple of times.”

Ball boys or girls retrieve and provide the tennis balls during a match and also hand out towels or water to the players.

King went to Cal State LA from 1961-1964 and “competed in tennis tournaments while also working as a tennis instructor,” according to

“If it weren’t for Billie Jean, there wouldn’t be female scholarships in athletics,” Gallien said. “That’s the history of Title IX and creating opportunities for women when there weren’t any. When [King] was in school at Cal State LA, she had already won Wimbledon, and yet there was no scholarship for her on the team, which is just ridiculous. There were men scholarships, but none [for] women.”

Before Title IX passed, only 1 percent of college athletic budgets went to women’s sports programs, according to Billie Jean King’s website.

King had campaigned for equality for women in sports from the ‘60s to the early ‘70s.

In 1972, she was involved in helping pass Title IX, “which prohibits sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports,” according to her website.

Cal State LA has held the Billie Jean King Fundraiser, raising about $4.5 million for scholarships for 20 years. Multiple scholarships to the school have been personally given by King herself, according to the executive director of athletics at Cal State LA, Dr. Daryl Gross.

An assistant coach of two years, Luciana Di Laura, was a scholarship recipient when she played for Cal State LA’s tennis team from 2016-2019. 

“Billie Jean King not only gave me the chance to get a scholarship to play tennis and get an education in another country to follow my dreams, but she also inspired me as a role model and leader,” Di Laura said. “I admire her for fighting for our equal rights, for teaching me that ‘pressure is a privilege,’ and for empowering me inside and outside the court.”

Gross was able to help raise the money for King’s statue by seeking donors who believe in “equity and opportunity.” These donors will be recognized during the statue’s dedication. The school is working with King to get an exact date. 

“Our athletic complex has always been called the Billie Jean King Athletic complex,” Gross said. “Given all Billie has done globally, we dedicated a statue to her. Her impact on Title IX is enormous. We plan on having a celebratory ceremony during this academic year to honor her.”

“It’s fantastic that [King] be honored in perpetuity. She’s certainly the most influential alumni of Cal State LA’s history,” Gallien said.

He feels that King’s philanthropic efforts prove her deserving of this statue and respect.

Di Laura believes that it’s an honor that King has been a part of Cal State LA’s tennis program and that King’s statue represents a legacy that she takes with pride.

 “It’s a great reminder to keep fighting and speak up for what I stand for and to inspire and empower people and our tennis team,” said Di Laura.