Who was the first minority player drafted into the NBA?
In 1947, Wataru Misaka was a Japanese-American baller out of Utah taken by the New York Knicks in the first round. Did you know that? Because I certainly didn’t.
“Misaka has not been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s not even mentioned in the hall of fame’s tribute to diversity in basketball. “
Transcending, a documentary about Misaka’s place in basketball history is premiering today in Salt Lake City, Utah. After NYC drafted him, he played in three of the first five games before getting cut by the team. Misaka helped the University of Utah to their only two National Championships. After he helped Utah to the 1944 NCAA championship, he was drafted into the Army. He served a two year tour in Japan, returned to college and helped the Utes to the 1947 NIT championship. (Remember that during this time, the NIT and NCAA tournaments were on equal footing.)
Imagine that: a Japanese-American basketball player making basketball history while the US government forced Japanese, Japanese-Americans and others who looked “Japanese” into concentration camps. Even though his story is quite compelling, Misaka says that “it wasn’t a big thing” and that “nobody cared” because “my story is puny.”
Humble man. Great story. Check out the rest at the Salt Lake Tribune.