SALT LAKE CITY — Wataru “Wat” Misaka, the first player of Japanese descent to play in the league that was the predecessor to the NBA, has died. He was 95.
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.
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Wat Misaka,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said. “He was a part of the Utah teams that won national championships in the 1940s, but Wat was bigger than the game of basketball, blazing trails into places nobody of his descent had gone before. He was such a kind and thoughtful man and will be missed by so many. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and Utah fans, who all mourn his passing.”
Misaka was the point guard on the Utah team that won the NCAA tournament in 1944 and the NIT in 1947.
Misaka played three games for the New York Knicks during the 1947-48 season in the Basketball Association of America.
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 Associated Press contributed to this report.