Unrecognized no more: Wat Misaka

The Northeastern Center for Sport in Society cohosted the premiere of “Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story” at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in Newport on August 8.  The documentary chronicles Misaka’s ascent to the NBA at a time – 1947 – when anti-Japanese sentiment ran high.

Congratulations to the filmmakers and everyone involved in the production and showing of this film. You can read the full press release at http://www.northeastern.edu/sportinsociety/news/2009/185.html, with an excerpt below.


Breaking Basketball’s Barriers

By Jason Kornwitz

(8-4-09) Boston, Mass. – Northeastern University has a unique connection to the first person of color drafted by the Basketball Association of America, a precursor to the NBA.

In 1947, Japanese-American college basketball star Wat Misaka was drafted by former New York Knicks coach Joe Lapchick. Thirty-seven years later, Lapchick’s son, social justice pioneer Richard Lapchick, founded Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, which uses the power and appeal of sport to foster diversity and promote social responsibility.

Richard Lapchick credits his father for influencing his commitment to equality. “My dad had a huge influence on my life and my values,” said Lapchick, who is now Sport in Society’s director emeritus. “Seeing some of the negative response to his signing of Nat Clifton (the first African-American to break the NBA color-barrier) reinforced his—and later—my desire to stand up for justice and not block its path.”

Now a little-known instance of Joe Lapchick’s commitment to justice has been captured on film, in a documentary chronicling Misaka’s ascent to the NBA at a time when anti-Japanese sentiment ran high.

“Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story” will premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in Newport on August 8, cohosted by Northeastern’s center, the film festival, and ReImagined World Entertainment. The documentary features interviews with Wat and his family, teammates, basketball historians and sportscasters who discuss Misaka’s barrier-breaking journey during the end of World War II, when many Japanese were still in internment camps around the country.  (The article continues at http://www.northeastern.edu/sportinsociety/news/2009/185.html)