Two NBA stars just became Academy Award winners. On Sunday night, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets and Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz earned an Oscar as they served as executive producers for the live-action short film Two Distant Strangers. Durant and Conley worked with producer Lawrence Bender, who was nominated three times before winning on Sunday.
"Guys in the locker room were giving me grief about it the other day, just like, 'You might win an Oscar before you win a championship' " Conley said in an interview with CBS Los Angeles before the Oscars. "I was like, hey if I could win both, that'd be great, but obviously an Oscar was not something I thought I'd ever be a part of."
Two Distant Strangers is directed by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe and tells the story of a "Black man, played by rapper and actor Joey Bada$$, who gets stuck in a time loop re-living a deadly run-in with a police officer," as mentioned by USA Today. "During his acceptance speech, Free talked about stopping police violence."
"Today the police will kill three people," Free said as reported by Entertainment Weekly. "And tomorrow the police will kill three people. And the day after that, the police will kill three people because on average the police in America every day kill three people, which amounts to about a thousand people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be Black people."
Durant and Conley aren't the first NBA stars to win an Oscar. Late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant took home an Academy Award for his work on the animated short film, Dear Basketball. After winning, Bryant said: "I don't know if it's possible. "I mean, as basketball players, we are really supposed to shut up and dribble. But I am glad we do a little bit more than that."
Durant and Conley are happy about winning an Oscar, but they are looking to get more gold this summer. Durant and the Nets are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference and look at as favorites to win the NBA Finals. Conley has helped the Jazz clinch a playoff spot as they are the top team in the Western Conference.