First player to cross NBA color barrier reflects on the past six decades

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DENVER -- In 1947, the first player of color was drafted into the NBA. Wat Misaka was from Ogden, Utah and in the league's first draft the 5'7" forward was picked by the New York Knicks.

"I had won in Madison Square Garden and our Utah Utes team won over tons of fans," said th 88-year old retired engineer, who now calls Salt Lake City home. "We won the NIT--which at the time was the #1 tournament in the country--in back-to-back years and then filled in for Arkansas at the NCAA tournament and won that one too."

The subject of several film and video stories, Misaka was 'good-looking' and a hero to all the Japanese Americans, who, in many cases, were locked up in internment camps during WWII when Misaka was playing.

"I just played the game with a bit of fire in those days, always trying to show that my people could play just like anyone else," said Misaka.

The Knicks--who this year signed Jeremy Lin--became the first team to have a player of color on their roster. Blacks in those days had their own leagues and no Hispanics were allowed to play with whites either. So, when the Knicks took a flyer on Misaka it was the first time the color line in the league was broken. It would be a few years before the league allowed others of color to play the game now dominated by Black players.

"The NBA has taken the game worldwide now with players from Europe, Africa, and South America and that is a great thing," said Misaka.

His videos are on YouTube and you can find them by simply typing in the name of the man who played three games with the New York club, long before the color line was broken for good.