EXCLUSIVE: NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal is booking theaters in Los Angeles this weekend for free screenings of The Queen of Basketball, in honor of Lusia “Lucy” Harris, the late subject of the Oscar-shortlisted documentary.
Harris, who led Delta State University in Mississippi to three national championships in the 1970s and became the first woman ever officially drafted by an NBA team, died unexpectedly last week at the age of 66.
Harris is the first woman to score in Olympic basketball competition – she was the leading scorer and rebounder on the silver medal-winning U.S. women’s squad at the Montreal Games in 1976 – and holds the distinction of being the first Black woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Fellow Hall of Fame center O’Neal serves as an executive producer of the short documentary directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ben Proudfoot.
“I am extremely saddened at the sudden loss of the unsung legend and fearless trailblazer – Ms. Lucy Harris,” O’Neal said in a statement. “I just wanted to share her story on the big screen for everyone to see and be inspired by like I was. Ms. Harris’ story should be required viewing for all Americans. I hope folks will bring their families to these screenings. It’s time to remember her name. Long live the Queen.”
The free screenings, available on a first come-first served basis, will take place at noon on Saturday and Sunday at five Los Angeles-area venues: Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino; Laemmle Glendale; Laemmle NoHo 7 in North Hollywood; Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse 7, and Laemmle Monica Film Center in Santa Monica (find additional information here).
“With Lucy’s story, you just can’t turn away from the fact that she was absolutely preeminent. She was absolutely extraordinary. She was a pioneer,” Proudfoot told Deadline in an interview recorded just days before Harris passed away. “By all accounts, one of the greatest basketball players of her time, male or female.”
Proudfoot said that due to “discrimination on the basis of sex and on race,” Harris’s extraordinary achievements have been largely forgotten. She played at a time when women’s team sports attracted relatively little attention and there was no WNBA in existence to showcase her skills for fans far and wide.
“That’s what our movie is all about,” Proudfoot said, “is to try to rectify a gigantic oversight that happened 50 years ago.”
Proudfoot traveled with producer-cinematographer Brandon Somerhalder to Harris’s home in Greenwood, Miss. earlier in the pandemic to interview the basketball legend. He described her as self-effacing and modest about her accomplishments.
“She does not seek the spotlight,” Proudfoot told Deadline. “She’s extremely oriented around other people, making sure you’re okay… She’s just incredibly humble… You’re sitting with this truly extraordinary human being who has achieved more than almost anybody in the same field. And you would never know it.”
The Queen of Basketball is a New York Times Op-Doc/Breakwater Films production directed by Ben Proudfoot and edited by Stephanie Owens and Proudfoot. Executive Produced by Shaquille O’Neal, Adam Ellick, Mike Parris, Ben Proudfoot, Donnie F. Wilson. Proudfoot also produced the film, along with Elizabeth Brooke, Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Gabriel Berk Godoi, Brandon Somerhalder, and Sarah Stewart. Series commissioning producer for the New York Times is Lindsay Crouse, with cinematography by Somerhalder, and an original score composed and orchestrated by Nicholas Jacobson-Larson.
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