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AND THE WINNER IS…

Skyline High School’s Donnie F. Wilson wins Oscar

Story of Legendary Basketball Hall of Famer Lusia Harris receives rave reviews

By Dorothy J. Gentry and Cheryl Smith
Texas Metro News

Donnie Wilson with director Ben Proudfoot
Donnie Wilson with director Ben Proudfoot and the Oscar

Donnie F. Wilson won an Academy Award on Sunday night, but the Dallas artist and writer wasn’t there to accept it.

Wilson, an executive producer of the documentary “The Queen of Basketball,” had given his tickets to the family of the film’s subject, Lusia “Lucy” Harris.

“I felt excited with just the thought of where this could lead,” Wilson said about the nomination. “Her story is a great one and we’d hoped that she would be able to attend the ceremony.”

Harris, 66, died unexpectedly in January in Mississippi, just as plans were underway for her to hit the media circuit.

After decades of relative anonymity, Harris was finally getting the recognition she deserved for her pioneering efforts in basketball thanks to the documentary.

She was the first and only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team, the New Orleans Jazz in 1977, and she became the first Black woman inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Donnie Wilson and Shaquille O'Neal
Donnie Wilson and Shaquille O’Neal

Basketball greats Shaquille O’Neal and Stephen Curry, along with Wilson and business executive Mike Parris, were executive producers of the project from O’Neal’s company, Jersey Legends Productions.

Following Harris’ death, O’Neal told The Hollywood Reporter: “She was a woman athlete, a Black woman athlete and she’s been historically shortchanged and denied opportunities.

“We just want the world to know [she] was the greatest ever. I just want women, especially female athletes, to see this.”

His sentiments were echoed by the film’s director, Ben Proudfoot, who accepted the Oscar on Sunday. In his speech, he called on President Joe Biden to bring home Baylor University and WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February.

Wilson, a graduate of Skyline High School and the University of North Texas, said his love for the arts was influenced by Diana Huguley, one of his teachers at St. Anthony Catholic School in South Dallas.

“She awakened something inside of me,” he said, adding that she would take his classes to the Dallas Opera to ignite students’ interest in the arts.

Wilson said his cousin Tawana Blaylock and his mother, Peggy Brown, kept him focused when he thought things weren’t working out.

Donnie WIlson's chair at Academy Awards
Donnie WIlson’s chair at Academy Awards

“I remember Tawana telling me that she saw something in me and she was not going to let me quit, even when I started thinking I needed to get a real job and abandon thoughts of being a playwright and producer,” he said. “She supported me financially, too.”

And his mother supported him when he left Dallas more than two decades ago to pursue his dreams.

“She also never stopped believing in me and always acted like I was the most talented person in the world,” he said. “She was there for me then and today.”

Wilson said his next project with Jersey Legends is “Headnoise,” which Variety reports is an animated short film about two talented basketball players from the same inner-city neighborhood.

Biography
Lusia “Lucy” Harris

Lusia Hrris
  • Led Delta State three consecutive Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships (1975, 1976 and 1977), tied for the most of any college.
  • Named tournament MVP for their three championship runs.
  • Finished her college career with 2,981 points (25.9 ppg) and 1,662 rebounds (14.4 rpg).
  • Awarded the Honda Broderick Cup as the best collegiate athlete in any sport during her senior year.
  • Earned a gold medal as a member of the 1975 U.S. Pan American Team that competed in Mexico City.
  • Scored the first basket of the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, leading the United States to a silver medal as its leading scorer and rebounder, according to ESPN.
  • Selected by the New Orleans Jazz with the 137th pick of the 1977 NBA draft, the only woman to be drafted to the NBA. Due to her pregnancy, she never reported to training camp or played with the team.
  • Played for the Houston Angels of the now-defunct Women’s Professional Basketball League.
  • Member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
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