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First non-white player in modern professional basketball, Wat Misaka dies at 95

Wat Misaka

Former University of Utah and New York Knicks basketball player Wat Misaka talks with a co-director of a film made about him at his home Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008, in Bountiful, Utah. Although he’s always happy to talk about basketball and remember his playing days, the idea of being a racial pioneer in professional sports is a little much for Misaka. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)


SALT LAKE CITY — Wataru “Wat” Misaka, the first non-white player to play in the league that was the predecessor to the NBA, has died. He was 95.

Misaka played three games for the New York Knicks during the 1947-48 season in the Basketball Association of America. He was the league’s first player of of Japanese descent.

A 2008 documentary called “Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story” told the story of what Misaka went through as a trailblazing athlete.

Misaka attended a 2013 Utah Jazz game to watch Jeremy Lin play.

The University of Utah athletic department said in a news release Thursday that Misaka died Wednesday in Salt Lake City. He grew up in Ogden, Utah.

Mikasa was the point guard on the Utah team that won the NCAA Tournament in 1944 and the NIT in 1947.