Lifestyle Spotlight

March 29, 2013 - Happy Birthday March Fong Eu!

Posted by AC Team - on Thursday, 28 March 2013

Update: Memorial services are being held on Wednesday January 10, 2018 to celebrate Honorable March Fong Eu's life at 10AM (PST) at Chapel of the Chimes, at 4488 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, California.   March 29, 2013 Happy Birthday to March Fong Eu, a truly great lady. Today, March 29, the former U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia and Secretary of State of California turns 91.  Happy Birthday March! (LtoR) Suyin Fong Stein, March Fong Eu, Suzanne Joe Kai Photo by May Hsu March...


Posted by Lia Chang on Friday, 10 April 2009.

TRANSCENDING - THE WAT MISAKA STORY tells the story of Wat Misaka, the first Asian American pro basketball player.

The Basketball Hall of Fame has an entire case devoted to "Diversity in the NBA", but the first Asian American pro basketball player Wat Misaka, is nowhere to be found.

Not only was he the first Asian American pro basketball player, he was the very first draft pick of the New York Knicks in 1947. The first non-white person to be drafted into professional basketball.

Award winning filmmakers Bruce Alan Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson set out to correct this disgraceful omission with a new documentary TRANSCENDING - THE WAT MISAKA STORY. The documentary profiles Wat Misaka, a Nissei born and raised and still living in Utah.

TRANSCENDING - THE WAT MISAKA STORY, includes in depth interviews with Wat and his family, teammates from his championship teams (including All-American star Arnie Ferrin of the Minneapolis Lakers) sports authorities (including Knicks Historian Dennis D'Agostino and ubiquitous New York sportscaster Spencer Ross), and many who continue to look up to him as both a role model and personal hero.

The film also has video clips from his 1944 and 1947 college games, rare footage from a visit to the Topaz Internment Camp, and countless photos of his triumphant career.

Overcoming the national political climate during World War II, Wat was a star player for the University of Utah 1944 and 1947 championship teams, taking 2 years off in between to serve in the U.S. Army.

His perseverance and loyalty to his teammates, other Nissei friends (including those interned at Topaz) and his family are a testament to the unflappable Japanese American spirit.

The directors of the film, Bruce Alan Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson provide these notes about their film:

When we first heard about Wat, we, like everyone else we talk to, were amazed to find out that in 1947 he was the first person of color to be drafted into professional basketball -- and by our hometown team, the New York Knicks, to boot.

Not only that, he was their first draft pick ever. Why had we never heard of him? And how difficult must it have been for him, a young Japanese American man, to be a basketball hero in post-World War II America?

To be honest, even with all of these thoughts, when we first began this project, we thought that wed be lucky to have enough for a very short film.

But the more we came to find out what an amazing man Wat is and how extraordinary his leadership and perseverance during that time period were, the more we were inspired by him and compelled to see his achievements acknowledged in what has ended up being an 86 minute feature documentary film.

Wat will tell you that he was just lucky to be on so many championship teams all the way through Junior High and High School to Junior College, Military leagues and the University of Utah (where he led the 1944 NCAA and 1947 NIT winning teams).

We would argue that ultimately it was Wats leadership and selfless team play that made those teams into championship teams. In fact, four out of five of the 1947 NIT championship team members returned the next year without Wat but they could not come close to approaching the success they had had the year before.

Wat simply had that intangible quality that coaches look for and dream of in an athlete.

In fact, Wat was such a charismatic athlete that, at a time when hostility against Japanese Americans was at its all time high, Knicks owner Ned Irish didnt think twice about the racial implications of having a Japanese American on his team.

The New York City fans were certainly ahead of their time in accepting him, too. During the 1947 NIT Championship Tournament at Madison Square Garden, Wat guarded and shut down Ralph Beard, All-American Player of the Year from Kentucky. And when Wat was not recognized in the selection of the MVP, the New York City crowds booed the choice.

Unfortunately, Wat"s NBA career was a short one. He only played three games, scoring seven points. Though the baseball world had a plan firmly in place that year when integrating Jackie Robinson into their league, no one thought about the possible repercussions of having a Japanese American player in professional basketball.

Who can say how his career might have turned out in a less politically charged time.

After being released from the Knicks, Wat was offered (and turned down) a spot with the Harlem Globetrotters, who at the time were considered to be the best team in the world. One more fact that speaks to Wats amazing athleticism.

We were shocked and saddened to see that though the Basketball Hall of Fame has an entire case devoted to "Diversity in the NBA", Wat is nowhere to be found.

It is our greatest hope that in sharing his story with the world, not only will the Knicks finally have an opportunity to celebrate the historic and courageous choice they made in drafting Wat, but that we will all be reminded that the human spirit is powerful and transcending, especially if youre lucky enough to be a guy like Wat Misaka. - Directors Bruce Alan Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson

SCREENING SCHEDULE: (Please check for updates to the screening times, dates and locations)

May 3: Brooklyn - 4:00 pm
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Cherry Blossom Festival
1000 Washington Avenue