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9.12.2008

wat misaka, basketball pioneer

I've mentioned Wataru "Wat" Misaka a few times over the years. The 5-foot-7 point guard was the first non-white players in the what is now the NBA. Yes, the first Asian American pro basketball player. The first player of color, period. Here's a recent story on Misaka from the Salt Lake Tribune: Utahn broke ethnic wall in NBA.

In the 1940s, Misaka helped lead the University of Utah men's basketball team to its only two national championships. In 1947, he was the first-round draft pick by the New York Knicks, but only played a few games before returning home.

His stint in pro basketball was short, but he was a true pioneer. So why is it that Mr. Misaka has not been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame? He apparently isn't even mentioned in the hall of fame's tribute to diversity in basketball. Where's the recognition? How about at least an acknowledgment?

A Utah native, he is now 84 and lives in Bountiful. Two filmmakers recently made a documentary, Transcending, about Misaka's mark in sports history, which premiered this week in Salt Lake City. It'll screen in San Francisco early next week. To learn more about the film and future screenings, go here.

UPDATE: Here's another good story on Wat Misaka from the Associated Press: Former Utah player broke basketball ethnic barrier.