Wat Takes His Shot

By Kirkus Reviews

Remembering his father’s words of wisdom, Wataru Misaka, who broke the color barrier in basketball, persevered despite obstacles.

The child of Japanese immigrants, Wataru Misaka (1923-2019) grew up in Ogden, Utah, where his talent for basketball was apparent early on. Wat, as he was known, played on intergenerational Japanese American leagues, as the local sports leagues were for white people only. His father taught him a Japanese word: “Gambatte. Do your best.” It became Wat’s motto while enduring discrimination. Soon after the U.S. entered World War II, hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated; though Wat and his family were safe, the experience took an emotional toll. In college, a segregated dorm system forced him to sleep under the bleachers, and racist spectators heckled him during games. Anti-Japanese sentiments proliferated after the war ended. Undaunted, Wat fought for opportunities to show he belonged; in 1947, he was drafted by the New York Knicks and became the first player of color to join the Basketball Association of America (later renamed the National Basketball Association). Wat gave back to his community, too, bringing a championship banner to his fans who were imprisoned in Utah’s Topaz War Relocation Center. Kim’s straightforward, at times stiff text is well supported by Iwata’s bold, appealing artwork, which alternates full-page illustrations with action-packed vignettes. An author’s note provides additional biographical details.

Solid, stirring fare for sports fans.