Chief Sponsor: Jani Iwamoto

House Sponsor: Steve Eliason


8     General Description:
9          This concurrent resolution honors Wataru Misaka.
10     Highlighted Provisions:
11          This resolution:
12          ▸     honors the late Wataru "Wat" Misaka, who was the first person of color to play in
13     what is now the National Basketball Association; and
14          ▸     recognizes Mr. Misaka's athletic abilities and contributions to college and
15     professional basketball.
16     Special Clauses:
17          None

19     Be it resolved by the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein:
20          WHEREAS, Wataru "Wat" Misaka, who broke the color barrier by being the first
21     person of color to play in what is now the National Basketball Association (NBA), died on
22     November 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City at the age of 95;
23          WHEREAS, born and raised in Ogden, Wat Misaka was a 5-foot-7-inch tall Japanese
24     American whose basketball career began at Ogden High School where he led his team to the
25     1940 state championship and regional championship in 1941;
26          WHEREAS, in 1942, his Weber Junior College basketball team won the Intermountain
27     Collegiate Athletic Conference (ICAC) junior college title and he was named "most valuable
28     player" of that year's junior college post-season tournament;
29          WHEREAS, in 1943, the Weber Junior College team earned another ICAC title and the

30     college named him "athlete of the year";
31          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka enrolled at the University of Utah and helped lead the
32     basketball team to win the 1944 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship over
33     Dartmouth;
34          WHEREAS, his teammate and close friend Arnie Ferrin said in recognition of Mr.
35     Misaka's humility and kindness in the face of racial taunts and pressures, "We achieved things
36     that a lot of people never will. He made us a better team and made me a better person. I can't
37     say I had anyone I enjoyed being around more than Wat.";
38          WHEREAS, while fellow Japanese Americans were interned in concentration camps,
39     Mr. Misaka took a two-year pause from college and served in the United States Army during
40     World War II;
41          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka rose to the rank of staff sergeant and was assigned to the U.S.
42     strategic bombing survey where his job was to interview the citizens of Hiroshima about their
43     morale after the bombing;
44          WHEREAS, upon completing his military service, Mr. Misaka returned to the
45     University of Utah basketball team and, by holding the Kentucky Wildcats' All-American and
46     "player of the year" guard Ralph Beard to just one point, the University of Utah won the 1947
47     National Invitation Tournament championship;
48          WHEREAS, through his heart and exciting play, Wat won the support of the Madison
49     Square Garden crowd, so much so that they booed when he was not named MVP for the
50     tournament;
51          WHEREAS, his New York fame and fan base was such that the owner of the New
52     York Knicks, Ned Irish, signed Mr. Misaka as the first ever collegiate draft pick of the New
53     York Knicks for a salary of $3,000 per year, making him the first person of color to start a
54     game in what is now known as the NBA, preceding the first African American to play in the
55     NBA by three years;
56          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka was referred to as "Hawaiian American" to make his ethnicity
57     more acceptable;

58          WHEREAS, after the Knicks cut Mr. Misaka, he declined an invitation to join the
59     Harlem Globetrotters and returned to the University of Utah, earning a degree in engineering
60     and subsequently working as a mechanical engineer;
61          WHEREAS, later in life, Mr. Misaka was honored for his athletic achievements
62     through his induction into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, the Japanese American Sports Hall of
63     Fame, and the Weber State University Hall of Fame;
64          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka was also included in the diversity display of Hoop Hall, the
65     professional basketball Hall of Fame;
66          WHEREAS, in 2008, Mr. Misaka was the subject of a documentary, "Transcending:
67     The Wat Misaka Story," permanently available at the Library of Congress;
68          WHEREAS, in 2009, President Obama invited Mr. Misaka to the White House to
69     honor him for being the first player of color in the NBA;
70          WHEREAS, in December 2009, the New York Knicks honored Mr. Misaka at a
71     Knicks' game in Madison Square Garden and presented him with an honorary No. 15 jersey;
72          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka was recognized by the Japanese American Citizens League in
73     2011 for his championship spirit and leadership role in inspiring sports fans to look beyond
74     race during the 1940's when anti-Japanese sentiment was at an all-time high;
75          WHEREAS, in addition to Mr. Misaka's basketball achievements, as an avid golfer he
76     had two hole-in-ones and enjoyed backpacking in the Uinta Mountains and the Wind Rivers,
77     with and without llamas;
78          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka had a 189 bowling average and a high game of 299 in 2003 at
79     the age of 80;
80          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka was inducted into the Japanese American National Bowling
81     Association Hall of Fame and the Salt Lake City Bowling Hall of Fame;
82          WHEREAS, Mr. Misaka's contribution to college and professional basketball as a
83     Japanese American during times of racial discrimination merits recognition; and
84          WHEREAS, his accomplishments were covered in obituaries by the New York Times,
85     the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, MSN Sports, NPR, and

86     the NBA:
87          NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the
88     Governor concurring therein, honors the memory of Wat "Kilowatt" Misaka and his legacy of
89     being the first person of color to play professional basketball.
90          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to Mr. Misaka's
91     family.