Breaking the NBA color barrier
November 26, 2009 5:27 AM   Subscribe

Transcending The same year Jackie Robinson started playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Wat Misaka became the first "person of color" to play in the NBA. Though he only played three games with the New York Knicks.

Misaka helped lead the University of Utah Utes to a NIT title after serving in the US military, stationed in Hiroshima months after the first atomic bomb was dropped.
posted by drezdn (5 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What a remarkable man, given the times. Thanks for sharing this story.

Regardless of race, my heart will always go the 5'7" pro basketball player.
posted by availablelight at 7:12 AM on November 26, 2009

I had no idea. Great post.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:37 PM on November 26, 2009

This is one of those rare posts where I really have nothing to say except, "Wow! Yay!"
posted by Sys Rq at 8:39 PM on November 26, 2009

The fact that I've never heard of this guy kind of bothers me. Yeah, I could have done more research about Asian Americans in the NBA I suppose, and perhaps the fact that I haven't heard of him is more an indication of the irrelevance of the NBA than it is any statement about Asian American history in the United States (a topic I spent considerable time studying in college).

However, I suspect that the fact that I haven't heard of Wat Misaka is an indication of and further evidence for the second class status Asian Americans have always been afforded in this country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the Japanese-American Internment to race riots in the American West - not only have Asian Americans experienced one of America's long chains of hatred and violence against the "other", it has consistently been regarded as a historical footnote.

It's both sad and true that many Americans are blissfully unaware of the tragic history surrounding Asian immigration to the United States. It doesn't help that those who right the history books too often represent the oppressors. The U.S. just isn't good with acknowledging its bad deeds, with most such acknowledgments coming many years after they probably should have. Of course a barrage of apologies does nothing to truly offset years of oppressive thought in the population and oppressive action under the law of the land. Maybe this is why the story of Wat made me happy.

Anyway, great post, thanks for this.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:50 PM on November 26, 2009

Ha, "right the history books", I was in hurry, that's "write" not "right", but I suppose it makes quite a subtle statement on a couple of different levels about the writers in question, or is that "righters". Hmm.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:52 PM on November 26, 2009

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