Title IX changed the landscape of women's sports in America (and globally) forever. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of its passing, we take a look at 14 women from 14 sports who have become prominent figures in both American culture and their respective sports.

The Most Prominent Athletes Of The Title IX Era Slideshow


Mia Hamm

When you think of iconic female soccer stars, how can you not immediately think of Hamm? Hamm was a founding member of the Washington Freedom and was a forward on the U.S. women's national team, scoring more international goals in her career than any other player -- male or female. She was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007 after her 2004 retirement. Bonus fact: Hamm was born with a club foot, but corrective shoes took care of it.


Billie Jean King

As the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, Women's Sports Foundation and the owner of World Team Tennis, King is a natural for this list. She competed at Wimbledon in 1961 at age 17, winning the women's doubles alongside Karen Hantze Susman. They next two decades were fast and furious for King, whose resume includes wins at the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open. An outspoken advocate for gender equality in sports, she was the first female athlete and tennis player to win Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1972, the year before she beat Bobby Riggs in their famous match. Bonus fact: King had guest appearances on Law & Order and Ugly Betty.


Mary Lou Retton

The 1984 Olympic gold medalist was the first female gymnast to win the all-around title from outside Eastern Europe. She won two silver and two bronze medals that year, and was named Sports Illustrated's Sportswoman of the Year. Bonus fact: Not only was Retton a Wheaties spokesperson, she had a guest appearance on "Baywatch."


Jennie Finch

Few could argue that Finch is the most famous softball player in history. In 2004, the pitcher helped the U.S. softball team take home the gold at the Athens Olympics. In 2008, she led the team to the silver in Beijing. She played for the Chicago Bandits and Philadelphia Force, pitching perfect games for both teams. Bonus fact: She was fired by Donald Trump on The Celebrity Apprentice in the fourth week of the 2008 season.


Bonnie Blair

The speedskater from Illinois boasts five Olympic gold medals and one bronze from the early 90s. After the 1994 Olympics, she set the world record in the 500 meter race, becoming the first female to finish in under 39 seconds. She is one of the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympians. Bonus fact: Blair is married to another Olympic speedskater, Dave Cruikshank.


Picabo Street

The retired Olympic Alpine skier grew up with plenty of snow in Picabo, Idaho -- hence the unusual name. She joined the U.S. Ski Team in 1989 at age 17, and went on to win a gold and a silver medal. She also won gold, silver and bronze medals at the World Championships. Street had a devastating crash in Switzerland in 1998, but did return to the slopes for a few years after two years of rest. Bonus fact: Street appeared on Sesame Street, surprising Telly Monster when he was looking for Peekaboo Street.


Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Now retired, Joyner-Kersee is one of the all-time greatest athletes in women's long jump and hepathlon. She has three Olympic gold medals, one silver and two bronze, plus four golds from the World Championships. Sports Illustrated for Women named her the greatest female athlete of all time -- just ahead of her inspiration, Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Bonus fact: The track star was named after Jackie Kennedy.


Cammi Granato

As one of the first women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, Granato was an obvious choice for this list. She was captain of the U.S. women's hockey team when they won the gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, and helped lead the team to the silver in 2002 in Salt Lake City. Bonus fact: Granato is married to retired NHL star Ray Ferraro.


Laila Ali

Gloves off to the daughter of Muhammad Ali. Although her father wasn't thrilled when she first told him she wanted to get into the dangerous sport of boxing, there was no stopping her. Her first match was Dec. 8, 1999. She beat April fowler, and hasn't lost a single match since, though some writers have criticized her for avoiding top champions like Ann Wolfe, Leatitia Robinson and Natascha Ragosina. Bonus Fact: Ali co-hosted the revival of American Gladiators with Hulk Hogan. When Hogan was going through a period of depression, he claims a phone call with Ali helped him through suicidal thoughts.


Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor

The dynamic duo of beach volleyball, Walsh and May-Treanor took home the gold at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics and are known as the greatest beach volleyball duo of all time. While at Stanford, Walsh played against her future teammate, who was at Long Beach State. Bonus fact: After taking home the gold in Beijing, May-Treanor took her skills to Dancing with the Stars, but tore her achilles tendon during practice. She was out for nearly a year.


Nancy Lopez

Lopez is our pick for most prominent golfer. With 52 professional wins and a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Lopez is widely considered one of the best women's golfers of all time. She has 48 LPGA wins, three of which were major championships. Bonus fact: Lopez is the only woman to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy in one season, 1978.


Michelle Kwan

The figure skater discovered the ice at age five, starting serious training at age eight. She has won five World Championships, nine U.S. Championships, one Olympic silver and one Olympic bronze medal. In 2001, she won the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete. Her impressive resume goes beyond the ice, with a graduate degree in international relations from Tufts University. Bonus fact: Kwan has served as a special envoy diplomat for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current Secretary Hillary Clinton.


Janet Evans

The champion swimmer may already have four Olympic gold medals, but she is coming back for more. In 1987, she broke three world records and at the 1988 Summer Olympics, she earned the nickname "Miss Perpetual Motion." When she retired in 1996, she held seven world records, five Olympic medals and 45 U.S. national titles. But Evans has been training and hopes to make an appearance at the London Games, despite being a longshot.


Lisa Leslie

The 6-foot-5 WNBA champion boasts three MVP awards and four Olympic gold medals. She played at USC and then brought her talents to the Los Angeles Sparks for 11 seasons. She played in seven WNBA All-Star games and two WNBA championships. In 2009, Leslie became the first WNBA player to score 6,000 points in a career. Bonus fact: Leslie was the first player to dunk in a WNBA game.

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