BSP-06 Japanese-American basketball pioneer Misaka dies

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BASKET-NBA-USA-MISAKA

Japanese-American basketball pioneer Misaka dies

LOS ANGELES, Nov 22, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Wataru “Wat” Misaka, a Utah native of
Japanese descent who was recognized as the first person of color to play in
what is now the NBA, died Wednesday at the age of 95, the University of Utah
said.

Misaka, who was born in Ogden, Utah, played for Weber Junior College in his
hometown before playing at the University of Utah — where he helped the team
to victory over Dartmouth in the 1944 NCAA championship game at Madison
Square Garden.

After helping Utah to another national title Misaka joined the Basketball
Association of America, predecessor of the NBA which includes the BAA’s
statistics in its history.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Wat Misaka,” said University of
Utah Director of Athletics Mark Harlan.

“He was a part of the Utah teams that won national championships in the
1940s, but Wat was bigger than the game of basketball, blazing trails into
places nobody of his descent had gone before.

“He was such a kind and thoughtful man and will be missed by so many.”

In between two seasons playing for Utah, Misaka was drafted into the US
military and rose to the rank of staff sergeant.

He was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1947 and played three games —
scoring seven points — in the 1947-48 season.

In 2009, US President Barack Obama mentioned Misaka when he spoke at the
opening ceremony to mark the formation of the President’s Advisory Commission
and White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

His life was documented in the movie “Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story.”

“Wat was a person who was an achiever in all he did,” said Misaka’s Utah
teammate Arnie Ferrin.

“He did so many great things such as representing the Japanese as an
American citizen during the War. He was one of my best friends, in fact we
all should have a friend like him. I will miss him dearly.”

BSS/AFP/GMR/0902 hrs