‘King Richard,' ‘The Queen of Basketball' Among Sports Connections at Oscars

Between nominations and presenters, sports will be well represented at this year's Oscars


There are plenty of Oscars in sports: Oscar Robertson, Oscar De La Hoya and Oscar Charleston, to name a few.

On Sunday, there will be plenty of sports at the Oscars.

The 94th Academy Awards will bring the biggest celebrities in the world together to celebrate the year in movies. While the ceremony commemorates the best performances on the silver screen, it also has a history of weaving in greatness from the world of athletics.

“Rocky,” “Chariots of Fire” and “Million Dollar Baby” have all taken home the Oscars’ biggest prize, Best Picture. “Field of Dreams,” “The Blind Side” and “Moneyball” also earned Best Picture nominations as sports movies.

It’s not just the movies as a whole that come away with hardware, either. Robert De Niro won Best Actor for playing Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull” and Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side.” Christian Bale and Melissa Leo took home Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively, for “The Fighter.” In recent years, Brad Pitt, Sylvester Stallone and Margot Robbie have earned acting nominations in sports films.

One of the greatest sports moments at the Oscars came in 2018 when Kobe Bryant took the stage and was handed a statuette. The Los Angeles Lakers legend won Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball,” a five-and-a-half minute short accompanying the 2015 poem of the same title he wrote for The Players’ Tribune in 2015 to announce his looming retirement.

What sports moments will occur at Sunday’s ceremony? Here are a few crossovers:

“King Richard” enters with six nominations

One of 2021's best movies centers around two all-time tennis players and their father.

"King Richard" is nominated for six Oscars this year: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song and, last but not least, Best Picture. 

Will Smith is up for Best Actor for portraying the titular Richard Williams, the father and coach of Venus and Serena Williams. This marks Smith’s third career acting nomination and second in a sports movie, with his first coming in 2002 for “Ali.” Smith is one of the Best Actor favorites alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, who is nominated for “The Power of the Dog,” but he has gained momentum leading into Sunday’s ceremony.

Aunjanue Ellis, meanwhile, received her first Oscar nomination for playing Oracene Williams, Richard's husband. Ellis is a long shot to actually win the award as Ariana DeBose is the frontrunner for her performance in “West Side Story.”

While the movie has a chance of also winning Best Film Editing, its greatest chances of earning an award rest on Smith’s shoulders.

“The Queen of Basketball” nominated for Best Documentary Film (Short Subject)

The other sports movie up for an Oscar this year is “The Queen of Basketball.”

Director Ben Proudfoot’s 22-minute documentary is about Lusia Harris. The Delta State graduate made history by scoring the first ever points in an Olympic women’s basketball tournament at the 1976 Montreal Games. One year later, she became the first and only woman officially drafted by an NBA team when the New Orleans Jazz selected her in 1977.

“The Queen of Basketball” could become the second sports documentary to take home the award in the last three years. In 2020, the honor went to “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl).”

Shaun White, Kelly Slater and Tony Hawk among Oscars presenters

Three of the greatest extreme sports athletes of all time will present awards at this year’s ceremony.

Shaun White, Kelly Slater and Tony Hawk were announced as presenters on Monday as part of a lineup that includes Stephanie Beatriz, DJ Khaled, Jennifer Garner, H.E.R., Tiffany Haddish, Bill Murray and Elliot Page.

What is their connection to movies, exactly? Well, Hawk thinks his résumé speaks for itself:

White’s body of work includes “Friends With Benefits,” “Stretch” and the voice of “Clueless Smurf” in “Smurfs 2.” Slater has 17 acting credits on his iMDB page, including a fitting voice role in “Surf’s Up.”

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