Runnin’ Utes Legend Wat Misaka Memorialized By Ogden City

Jun 29, 2022, 12:01 PM
Wataru Misaka is a Utah Native who attended the University of Utah and became the first non-white N...
Wataru Misaka is a Utah Native who attended the University of Utah and became the first non-white NBA player in the history of the association (Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)
(Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY- They say legends never die and that certainly appears to be true of former Runnin’ Utes point guard Wat Misaka. The University of Utah Athletics’ twitter account revealed early Wednesday that a horse statue on historic 25th street in downtown Ogden was painted in commemoration of Misaka’s feats during a time when Japanese-Americans were feared. The horse is located in front of the building Misaka lived in while growing up in Ogden, Utah.

The Legend Of Misaka

Misaka came up in a volatile time for Japanese-Americans playing basketball at Ogden High and then later college ball at both Weber State (1941-1943) and the University of Utah (1943-1944, 1946-1947) while others were being forced into internment camps. The break in Misaka’s Utah career was due to being drafted into World War II where he earned the rank of staff sergeant over two years. Misaka and the Utes were responsible for two National Championships in four years for the University of Utah.

Misaka continued to breakdown barriers after his college career was over being taken in the 7th round of the 1947 BAA Draft (later the NBA) by the New York Knicks (the same year Jackie Robinson broke into the MLB). The “bold” pick at the time made Misaka the first person of color to ever play in the National Basketball Association. The first Black athlete did not play in the league until 1950.

While Misaka’s pro career was short- he only accounted for three games and seven points during his time with the Knicks, it was meaningful and helped open the doors for many other minority groups in the future. Misaka’s efforts earned him a spot in the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 while being inducted into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame in 2011. On January 22, 2022, Misaka’s number 20 jersey was retired by the University of Utah. Unfortunately, Misaka wasn’t able to see the latest honors bestowed to him as he passed away at the age of 95 in 2019.

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Runnin’ Utes Legend Wat Misaka Memorialized By Ogden City