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11.21.2019

Wat Misaka, first nonwhite player in the NBA, dies at 95

Japanese American point guard debuted with the New York Knicks in 1947.



Wat Misaka, the pioneering Japanese American athlete who became the first person of color to play in modern professional basketball, died Wednesday in Salt Lake City. He was 95.

Wat Misaka, First Nonwhite in Modern Pro Basketball, Dies at 95

Misaka, the son of Japanese immigrants, starred for the University of Utah on teams that won two national tournament championships. In 1947, he made professional debut with the New York Knicks -- then part of the Basketball Association of America, a forerunner of the National Basketball.



Starters for University of Utah's 1947 NIT title-winning team

The 5-foot-7 point guard only scored seven points in three games with the Knicks before getting cut. Misaka went back to Utah, finished his college degree and became a mechanical engineer, his basketball days seemingly behind him as an obscure footnote in sports history.

Decades later, when Misaka was in his eighties, he was ultimately recognized for his trailblazing status as the first Asian American and first nonwhite player in the NBA. His story is recounted in Bruce Alan Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson's 2009 documentary Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story.

Rest in peace.

More here: Utah’s Wat Misaka, Asian-American pioneer in both college and pro basketball, dies at 95