Wataru “Wat” Misaka was familiar with Madison Square Garden long before he became the first non-white player in the NBA. Misaka had helped the University of Utah men's basketball team to win the 1944 NCAA Tournament and the 1947 National Invitation Tournament there, so when the 5-foot-7-inch (1.7-m) Japanese-American guard was selected by the New York Knicks to play in the Basketball Association of America -- which merged with the NBA two years later -- he felt right at home. Misaka’s professional career, though, ended quickly. After scoring seven points in just three games, he was cut from the team, although his place in history had already been assured.
Three games and out:
- Misaka declined an offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters and returned to Utah to earn an engineering degree. Misaka said he was cut from the Knicks because they had too many guards.
- Misaka grew up during World War II and encountered racial discrimination in Ogden, Utah, because of his Japanese heritage. He led his high school team to a state title in 1940.
- In October 1950, Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in the NBA, although two other black players were also selected in the 1950 draft. Lloyd played in more than 560 games over nine seasons.