Documentary about first woman drafted by NBA, Mississippi native Lusia Harris wins Academy Award
Published 8:24 pm Sunday, March 27, 2022
The story of Lusia Harris only gets better: It’s now won an Oscar.
And just like his longtime Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant did four years ago in another category, Shaquille O’Neal can say he’s an Oscar winner, as well.
“The Queen of Basketball” — with a pair of basketball legends in O’Neal and Stephen Curry among the executive producers and top promoters of the 22-minute film — won the Academy Award for short subject documentary Sunday.
It comes about two months after the death of Harris, who scored the first basket in Olympic women’s basketball history and was the first woman officially drafted by an NBA team. Ben Proudfoot directed the short, which educated even some ardent basketball fans on the story of the trailblazer.
“If there is anyone out there that still doubts whether there’s an audience for female athletes and questions whether their stories are valuable or entertaining or important … let this Academy Award be the answer,” Proudfoot said at the award ceremony in Los Angeles.
Harris is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as is O’Neal. But even the four-time NBA champion — widely considered one of the greats in the history of the game — wasn’t familiar with her story.
“I didn’t know who she was at first,” O’Neal said earlier this month.
But the film and the involvement of O’Neal and Curry — the Golden State star wore sneakers earlier this month emblazoned with the phrase “Queen Lucy” on them — helped her story be told more and more.
Harris helped Delta State University win three straight national championships in the 1970s and earned a silver medal for the United States at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Harris was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in the seventh round of the 1977 NBA draft, but she was pregnant at the time and never actually went through with trying to make the team.
Her family was at Sunday’s award ceremony.
Proudfoot also used the winning Oscar moment to call upon President Joe Biden and urge him to obtain the release of two-time Olympic gold medalist and top women’s player Brittney Griner, who has been jailed in Russia. Griner was detained after arriving at a Moscow airport, reportedly in mid-February, after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges allegedly containing oil derived from cannabis.
Griner may face up to 10 years in prison under Russian law.
“President Biden, bring Brittney Griner home,” Proudfoot said.