An honor decades in the making will finally happen later this month.
The University of Utah will retire the jersey of the first person of color to play in professional basketball on January 22, reports Standard Net.
Alumnus Wat Misaka played for the University of Utah’s 1944 NCAA championship team and the 1947 NIT Championship team.
The Japanese American appeared in three games for the New York Knicks in 1947, breaking the color barrier in basketball the way Jackie Robinson did in baseball.
The University had originally scheduled to retire Misaka’s jersey in February 2020, but COVID restrictions forced a delay in the ceremony.
“It’s an honor and privilege for our basketball program here at the University of Utah to have an alumnus like Wat Misaka, who was a trailblazer in our sport,” said Utah head men’s basketball coach Craig Smith in a recent statement. “Our program’s history is special, and we’re thrilled to have the Misaka family join us as we hoist his jersey up into the rafters to be honored with all the other great Runnin’ Utes that have played here.”
The school previously inducted Misaka into the University of Utah’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Utah Sports Hall of Fame honored him in 1999.
ABC4 described Misaka as an integral player on the Utes two championship teams in 1944 and 1947. He excelled as both a defensive specialist and a point guard.
In between his first and final years playing with the Utes, he served as a staff sergeant during World War II.
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