Obama and Billie Jean King

Among yesterday’s Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees was tennis legend Billie Jean King.  She tells Politico that President Obama flubbed her stats.

Before presenting tennis legend Billie Jean King with the Medal of Freedom Wednesday, President Obama ticked off some of her accomplishments: 12 Grand Slam titles, 101 doubles titles, 67 singles titles. “Pretty good, Billie Jean,” he quipped.

But he didn’t get any of it right, according to King herself. “They didn’t get any of my facts right,” King lightheartedly noted afterward. “Did you see all the — how many titles I won? I was cracking up.”  “Not even in the ballpark,” she continued.

King found it amusing, and said her accomplishments on the court aren’t the most important. “I thought it was adorable,” she said.

Asked what Obama got wrong, she said, “Well the Grand Slam’s at 39 not at 12.”

“That’s not what’s important,” she explained. So when Obama got it wrong, “I thought even was more cute…I go, ‘Oh that’s really sweet.’ Like, just move on, get off the tennis stuff. Tennis was a platform.”

Geez, can’t this man’s staff get anything right?  How do you screw something like this up?  Don’t they have Wikipedia at the White House?!

Well, it turns out that King actually won 12 Grand Slam titles, just as Obama announced.  12 singles titles. She also won 16 Grand Slam doubles titles and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.  But the singles titles is what most of us consider to be the “real” Grand Slams; the others are sideshows. Great doubles players who aren’t also great singles players (or partnered with great singles players) are virtual unknowns even to most tennis fans.

As to the other stats, I’m not sure where Obama’s people got them.  She won 129 singles titles, not 67.  And I’m unable to easily determine how many non-Slam doubles titles she won (rather reinforcing my previous point).

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DL says:

    Wait until you see how they create statistics to enforce their Obamacare rejections.

  2. markm says:

    Are the Tennis Stat Czar and the Pants Czar one in the same?.


  3. physics geek says:

    Great doubles players who aren’t also great singles players (or partnered with great singles players) are virtual unknowns even to most tennis fans.

    Reminds me of Anna Kournikova. People claim she hasn’t won anything. In fact, she has several Grand Slam doubles titles.

  4. Wayne says:

    “just as Obama announced. 12 singles titles”

    Sorry for getting picky but that is not what he said. He said 12 Grand Slam titles which is different. Wither you consider double as a sideshow or not they do count. He was specific o the single and double criteria in the rest of stat which he got wrong and should have did the same thing with the grand slams titles. If he had everything else right, it could have been chalk up as a common slip up.

    Regardless it was a screw up but not that big of deal IMO.