Senator Iwamoto Sponsors Concurrent Resolution Honoring Wataru Misaka
SALT LAKE CITY – Senator Iwamoto’s SCR 3, which honors Wataru “Wat” Misaka, the first person of color to play in the NBA, will be read on the Senate floor on February 20 at 10:15 AM. This resolution recognizes Mr. Misaka’s athletic abilities and contributions to both collegiate and professional basketball. He began his career at Ogden High School where he led his team to the 1940 state championship and regional championship in 1941, and was later named the “most valuable player” of the Weber junior college post-season tournament in 1942. In 1944, he helped lead the team to win the 1944 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship over Dartmouth.
In addition to his history-making basketball career, this resolution also honors Mr. Misaka’s bravery as he took a two-year pause from college to serve in the United States Army during World War II while many of his fellow Japanese Americans were interned in concentration camps. Afterwards, he rose to the ranks of staff sergeant and returned to the University of Utah to play basketball and helped the team win the 1947 National Invitation Tournament championship.
His success at the University of Utah earned him the historic title of being the first ever person of color drafted by the New York Knicks. Later in life, he was introduced to the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, the Japanese American Sports Hall of Fame, and the Weber State University Hall of Fame. In 2009, President Obama invited Mr. Misaka to the White House to honor him for being the first player of color in the NBA, and in December 2009, the New York Knicks honored Mr. Misaka at a Knicks' game in Madison Square Garden and presented him with an honorary No.15 jersey. In addition to his professional success, he was also known for his kindness and humility in the face of racial taunts and pressures. In 2008, a documentary named Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story was released and is permanently available in the Library of Congress. His teammate Arnie Ferrin stated, “We achieved things that a lot of people never will. He made us a better team and made me a better person. I can't say I had anyone I enjoyed being around more than Wat.” Wat Misaka passed away on November 20, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah.