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color barrier

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Meet the First Asian American Basketball Player to Compete in the NBA

In the context of sports, 1947 is perhaps best known for being the year in which the legendary Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. Lesser known is the fact that over in the NBA — then known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) — a Japanese American by the name of Wataru Misaka did the same thing.

The 5-foot-7 Misaka was selected by the New York Knicks in the league’s inaugural draft, making history as the first non-White player to compete at the highest level of basketball. Though he only played three games before being cut, Misaka remains iconic as a pioneer who opened the door for minorities in the NBA.