What do Sidney Poitier, Meryl Streep, and Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr. all have in common?
They’re all Oscar winners now.
Conley and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant on Sunday won an Academy Award for “Two Distant Strangers,” this year’s Oscar winner for Best Live-Action Short Film. The two NBA stars served as executive producers on the film, which examines the deaths of Black Americans during encounters with police.
Conley was approached by a friend about investing in the project last year.
“He let me in on the project and said they’re close but they’re not going to be able to get it off the ground and running if they didn’t get a couple more people involved,” Conley said. “I didn’t know it would blow up to what it is now. We were just trying to get it into the Sundance Festival, and look where we are today.”
The Jazz screened the film, which is currently available on Netflix, last week — the day a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd.
“It was very timely,” Conley said. “With the verdict and what’s been going on the last few weeks, with more shootings, everything is still so real and pervasive. For us to be able to watch that as a team and have everyone in there for a conversation and speak on the feelings they had, just seeing it inform different peoples’ opinions is exactly what I love to see. People were having a conversation and asking questions. The awareness is there and we’re not done with this topic. It’s an ongoing thing every day.”
Conley was playing video games with some of his teammates in Minneapolis on Sunday when his film won the award.
“JC, Juwan, Royce, they all were around and congratulated me immediately,” Conley said. “And, like, two minutes later, Coach Quin, Joe and Derrick and a couple other guys were knocking on my door and celebrating and yelling and getting excited. It was pretty cool.”
Jazz center Rudy Gobert called it an “amazing” accomplishment.
“To be able to use his platform and his resources to help create something that can impact peoples’ perceptions, it’s big,” Gobert said. “Winning the Oscar, as an NBA player it just shows you that we’re not just NBA players. We can do whatever you want to do in life. I think it’s inspiring for all of us.”