The Queen of Basketball, which documents Harris’s unsung accomplishment as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Director Ben Proudfoot accepted the award, which was presented—along with seven other categories—during the Oscar pre-show. His edited acceptance remarks were inserted into the live telecast.
“If there is anyone out there that still doubts whether there’s an audience for female athletes, let this Academy Award be the answer,” Proudfoot said from the Oscar stage. “Long live the queen.”
Harris won three national championships at Delta State University in her native Mississippi in the 1970s, then led the U.S. to a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal (the first Games where women’s teams competed), and she became the first woman ever officially drafted by an NBA team. Harris lived to see The Queen of Basketball premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, but she died unexpectedly in January of this year, less than three weeks before the film earned its Academy Award nomination.
Harris’s four children, sons Eddie and Chris and twin daughters Crystal and Christina, attended the ceremony at the Dolby Theatre.
“One of the things that I was most inspired by watching the film is knowing she had the opportunity to tell her own story, in her words, in her voice,” Crystal Stewart Washington told Deadline earlier this month. “And that’s something that I know a lot of people don’t have when they lose someone. I mean, her legacy forever lives on in that, and we have that to go back to. We have her voice, her face.”
Among the biggest supporters of The Queen of Basketball are two towering executive producers—Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Shaq has declared Lucy Harris to be the GOAT, and an important role model, especially for women basketball players.
“When I saw [the film], it kind of made me cry,” Shaq told Deadline in January, just a day before Harris’ sudden passing. “I said to myself, ‘I got to do whatever it takes to bring this story to the world.’”
In his acceptance speech, Proudfoot referenced WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia for over a month on drug charges. She was arrested at an airport near Moscow after a search of her luggage allegedly turned up vape cartridges containing hashish oil, an illegal substance in Russia.
“One last thing,” Proudfoot, said, “President Biden, bring Brittney Griner home.”
Proudfoot, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was nominated for an Oscar last year for the documentary short A Concerto Is a Conversation, co-directed by Kris Bowers. Both A Concerto Is a Conversation and The Queen of Basketball are productions of L.A.-based Breakwater Studios and were released on the New York Times Op-docs platform.
Proudfoot sums up Harris this way: “One of the greatest basketball players of her time, male or female. She was absolutely preeminent. She was absolutely extraordinary.”