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You’ve likely never heard of the only woman drafted into the NBA – and that’s fine by her

Growing up in a sharecropping family in an all-Black Mississippi community in 1955, Lusia ‘Lucy’ Harris was entranced by basketball stars such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. Eventually sprouting to a height of 6 ft 3 in (190 cm), soon enough Harris would make her own mark on basketball history, leading a Delta State University basketball team that hadn’t existed until she arrived at the school in 1973 to three consecutive women’s collegiate basketball championships. The Canadian director Ben Proudfoot’s film The Queen of Basketball (2021) is a stylish look at Harris’s life and legacy, including how she became the only woman officially drafted into the National Basketball Association in 1977 – a move that she believes was a ‘publicity stunt’, but nonetheless speaks to her on-court dominance. Through his portrait, Proudfoot captures the degree to which notoriety and success are contingent on opportunity – alas, the Women’s National Basketball Association didn’t exist in Harris’s heyday – and how, for Harris, the transformation from hoops superstar to high-school basketball coach and matriarch involved its own distinct challenges, joys and tradeoffs.

Director: Ben Proudfoot

Producers: Elizabeth Brooke, Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Gabriel Berk Godoi, Brandon Somerhalder, Sarah Stewart

Website: Breakwater Studios

19 August 2021

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