Energy Solutions Arena was rocking Monday night as the Jazz welcomed in the Houston Rockets, and their point guard Jeremy Lin. You remember Lin, as in, Linsanity? He took New York and the entire country by storm last year, becoming the first Asian NBA super star. On Monday night, right here in Utah, Linsanity got to meet the first Asian NBA player and former Ute, and the meeting was absolutely heartwarming.
Wat Misaka has been following Lin's career for years. Last year, when Jeremy’s popularity blew up, Wat was getting calls from media outlets nationwide. So this was a meeting long in the making.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for over a year,” Misaka said.
Moments after the introduction, the 88 year old Ogden native laughed as he said, "Well, he's a lot bigger than I thought!”
So why did Misaka want to meet Lin? To understand that we need to delve into his past a bit. Back in 1947 Wat was the first Asian American to play in the NBA.
"It wasn't that big of a deal back in those days, the NBA was just getting started," he said.
The point guard had just come from a championship team at the University of Utah when he was drafted to the Knicks.
"New York was a great place to be, it was right after the war so I was worried about how I would be received,” Misaka said.
Even as World War 2 was wrapping up, Misaka was welcomed with open arms. But his time in New York was short. After 3 games, he was cut for reasons that were never quite explained. So he came back home, got his engineering degree, and has been in Utah ever since. Still, his passion for basketball never died even as the game morphed into something new.
"The athletes are much bigger stronger and better, it's a different ball game," Misaka said.
Then a year ago, Wat began getting calls from the media about this young Asian athlete who was creating a lot of buzz, and Wat was happy to give his 2-cents.
"All of this is bringing back memories of the old days and it's been a long time it's really a wonderful experience," he said.
A wonderful experience that lead to a meeting this modest man would have never expected in a lifetime.