'Queen of Basketball' documentary on life of pioneer Lusia Harris wins Oscar

Lusia Harris' legacy added another chapter when the documentary celebrating her historic story won an Oscar.

"The Queen of Basketball" won the Academy Award for short subject documentary at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday. It follows the story of Harris as the first and only woman to be drafted into the NBA in 1977.

The documentary, which includes Shaquille O'Neal and Stephen Curry as executive producers, debuted in July 2021 and Harris died two months ago at the age of 66.

“If there is anyone out there who doubts that there is an audience for female athletes and questions whether their stories are valuable or entertaining or important … let this Academy Award be the answer,” director Ben Proudfoot said at the award ceremony in Los Angeles, via the Associated Press.

Harris one of women's basketball greats

Harris was a force as a 6-foot-3 center for Delta State, leading the school to three straight AIAW national championships from 1975-1977. The NCAA did not hold a women's basketball tournament until 1982, a decade after Title IX was passed. She averaged 25.9 points and 14.5 rebounds and shot 63.3% in 115 college games.

The New Orleans Jazz selected the three-time All-American in the seventh round of the 1977 draft. She did not try out because she was pregnant, per the AP. She starred on the inaugural U.S. Olympic women's basketball team at the 1976 games and became the first woman to score a point in basketball at the Olympics. The silver medal-winning roster included Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers and Pat Summitt.

In 1992, she became the first Black woman to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and entered the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame seven years later in 1999.

Proudfoot calls for release of Brittney Griner

Proudfoot also mentioned another basketball great in his acceptance speech.

"Bring Brittney Griner home," he said, via the AP.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained after flying into Moscow in February approximately a week before the country's invasion of Ukraine began. Griner plays the WNBA offseason in Russia with UMMC Ekaterinberg. She has been held there ever since while under investigation for large-scale transportation of drugs and will be held there through at least May 19.

Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, faces up to 10 years in prison and there's concern she is at risk of becoming a "high-profile hostage" if Russian president Vladimir Putin views her as a bargaining chip. WNBA players have been quiet about the incident, likely in an effort to keep it out of the headlines and away from putting Griner in a worse situation.

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