Wataru Misaka, the first non-white player in the NBA, had prior success at Madison Square Garden with the University of Utah. After three games with the New York Knicks, he pursued an engineering degree and declined an offer from the Harlem Globetrotters. Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in the NBA in 1950.
Wataru “Wat” Misaka knew 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 win the 1944 NCAA Tournament and the 1947 National Invitational Tournament there, so when the 5-foot 7-inch (1.7 m) Japanese-American guard was selected from the New York Knicks to play in the Basketball Association of America – which merged with the NBA two years later – it felt right at home. Misaka’s professional career ended quickly, however. After scoring seven points in just three games, he was cut from the team, even though his place in history was already secured.
Three games and go:
Misaka turned down the offer to play with the Harlem Globetrotters and returned to Utah to pursue 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 due to 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 selected in the 1950 draft. Lloyd played in more than 560 games over nine seasons.