Share this story...
Wat Misaka - Utah Utes
Latest News

Ute Basketball Great Wat Misaka Passes Away At Age 95

Former Ute star Wat Misaka was the first Japanese-American to play in the NBA. Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah men’s basketball legend Wataru “Wat” Misaka passed away at 95 years old.

Misaka passed away in Salt Lake City on November 20.

The Ogden native played point guard for the Utes and led them to an NCAA tournament championship in 1944 and an NIT championship in 1947.

Misaka was drafted and served in the military in between the championship season. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant during his service.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Wat Misaka,” said Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan. “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.”

After his collegiate career with Utah, Misaka was drafted by the New York Knicks, who were part of the Basketball Association of America, the predecessor to the NBA.

Misaka was the first non-Caucasian to play in the Basketball Association of America.

He was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and the University of Utah’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame in 2011.