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Shaquille O’Neal Joins as EP of Short Documentary Oscar Contender ‘THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL’


The short subject documentary Oscar contender “The Queen of Basketball” tells the story of one of the greatest living women’s basketball players. She won 3 national trophies, scored the first basket in women’s Olympic history, and was drafted to the NBA. But you’ve probably never heard of Lusia “Lucy” Harris.

A four-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA Most Valuable Player, Olympic gold medalist, and inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and FIBA Hall of Fame, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the sport.

With today’s news that Shaquille O’Neal has joined as executive producer of “The Queen of Basketball”, these two unique legends have come together for the first time to tell Harris’s story, inspire the next generation of female basketball players, and open a national conversation about mental health and athletics. O’Neal’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammate on three consecutive NBA championship winning teams, the late Kobe Bryant, won an Academy Award in 2018 for the animated short film, Dear Basketball, that he wrote and produced.

Shaquille O’Neal said: “Lusia “Lucy” Harris’ heroism has gone unsung for way too long and I am particularly proud of my involvement in bringing her story to bear. A living legend and a pioneer in both men’s and women’s basketball, her life is a significant example of fortitude that is sure to inspire.”

Lusia “Lucy” Harris said: “I am excited that Shaquille O’Neal decided to join as an executive producer for The Queen of Basketball. Shaq is one of my favorite basketball players and I have enjoyed following his career after the game. I truly appreciate having his support for this project.”

“The Queen of Basketball” tells the story of Lusia “Lucy” Harris Stewart, a peerless pioneer in women’s basketball. She led a tiny rural Mississippi college to three national titles, scored the first basket in women’s Olympic history in 1976, and was the first and only woman drafted into the NBA. In 1992, she became one of the first two women inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Yet, she remains largely unknown, even among basketball enthusiasts.

Directed by Oscar nominated and Emmy winning filmmaker Ben Proudfoot (“A Concerto is a Conversation”) and produced by Breakwater Studios for The New York Times Op-Docs, “The Queen of Basketball” had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. During Tribeca, Robin Roberts hosted Harris on ABC’s Good Morning America. Roberts, a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University where she was the top-three all time leading scorer and inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, called Harris her “childhood hero.”

The film won Best Documentary Short at the 2021 Palm Springs International ShortFest, an Oscar-qualifying award. It has also screened at Hamptons International Film Festival, SFFILM’s Doc Stories, and will screen next at DOC NYC this week.

“The Queen of Basketball” won the 2021 Critics Choice Documentary Awards for Best Documentary Short and was included on DOC NYC’s Short List: Shorts program of the year’s best short documentaries. Today it received the Special Jury Mention in the Short List: Shorts competition at DOC NYC.

The film had a theatrical release in June 2021 followed by its streaming release on June 29 on nytimes.com and The New York Times YouTube channel. It debuted on the coveted Short of the Week site on August 4 and WNYC Radio named it the Documentary of the Week on November 5.

Director Ben Proudfoot said: “Helping unearth and celebrate Lucy’s storied career over the past year-and-a-half has been a great joy of my career. When Shaq and his team reacted to the film with such generosity and support, we were blown away and just thrilled for Lucy. In a way, Shaq is stepping up to assist Lucy in having the career moment she never got. It’s a special moment of solidarity between two remarkable players.”

Lindsay Crouse, the commissioning producer for The New York Times, said, “We are thrilled that Mr. O’Neal sees the same fearless spirit and joy in Lucy’s story that made us want to share it with our devoted audience of Times viewers via Op-Docs. His willingness to use his platform to boost her legacy will help ensure it is seen and celebrated by generations of ambitious young women to come — ensuring they know a pioneering woman in sport who helped forge the path.”

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