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Portland Trail Blazers: Asian Heritage Night

Portland Trail Blazers: Asian Heritage Night

Portland JACL Newsletter: December 2013 Issue

Board Member Message by John Kodachi

The Portland Trail Blazers announced that Thursday, December 12th will be “Asian Heritage Night” at the new Moda Center. That”s when Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets come into town to take on our Blazers. It should be an exciting game, so be sure to get your ticket!

Portland JACL Asian Heritage Night Jeremy Lin

This will be the second year the Trail Blazers have held an Asian Heritage Night. As a life-long Blazers fan, however, we never had a specially designated night for Asians when Geoff Petrie, Sidney Wicks, Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Jerome Kersey, or Clyde Drexler were nailing long-range shots or throwing down rim-rattling dunks during the “70s,”80s, or “90s. No, the Trail Blazers celebrating the Asian heritage of Portland fans is definitely a new event.

Portland JACL Newsletter Jeremy Lin, Wataru Wat Misaka

I, like many others, certainly welcome it, but Jeremy Lin—the Taiwanese-American and Harvard graduate whose sensational play with the New York Knicks sparked a world craze known as “Linsanity”—is not the first Asian NBA player or coach.

[blockquote type="blockquote_line" align="left"]Portland JACL, Wataru, Wat, MisakaThe same year that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball (1947), Wataru “Wat” Misaka became the first non-caucasian to play in the NBA. [/blockquote]

Back in the “90s, I remember watching Rex Walters, a 6″4″ point guard whose mother is Japanese, play for New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. There was also Raymond Townsend, a 6″3” point guard whose mother is Filipino, playing for the Golden State Warriors in the late “70s. However, both Walters and Townsend do not look Asian. Perhaps that”s why the Trail Blazers didn”t have Asian Heritage Night back then.

In 2004, there was Yuta Tabuse, a 5″9″ point guard, who played briefly with the Phoenix Suns. Tabuse was the first Japanese-born player in the NBA, but saw the court sparingly and was eventuallyreleased from the team. Maybe that explains why the Trail Blazers didn”t hold a special Asian night when the Blazers played the Suns.

Later, a wave of Asian seven footers came. Leading the charge was Yao Ming, a 7″6″ center from China, who played for the Houston Rockets for nine years from 2002 to 2011. Yao was the number 1 pick in the 2002 NBA draft and went on to appear in eight All-Star games. Despite being one of the most popular players in the league, the Trail Blazers never held an Asian Heritage Night when Yao played.

There was also Wang Zhizhi, a 7″1″ center from China, who played for the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Miami Heat, and Yi Jianlian, a 7″0″ power forward also from China, who came off the bench on several NBA teams during his career.

The Trail Blazers even got into the mix when we drafted Ha Seung Jin, a 7″3″ center from South Korea. While Ha had the size to compete in the NBA, his skills and athleticism were, unfortunately, a different story. Again, despite the presence of Asians in the NBA, there was no special heritage night for Chinese, South Koreans, Asians, casino online or, for that matter, 7″ people to watch Yao, Wang, Yi, or Ha play.

Portland JACL, Wataru Misaka

Don”t get me wrong. I support and applaud the Trail Blazers for celebrating the heritage of Asians, as well as other groups, but I”m just a bit concerned if the organization is embracing Asian fans only when there”s an NBA player who:

  1. Physically appears to be Asian
  2. Born in the U.S.,
  3. Not 7″ tall, and
  4. Starter on the team.

That”s a very select group!

If memory serves me right, the last player to fit that bill was Wataru “Wat” Misaka, a 5″7″ Japanese-American point guard, who, in 1947, was the first non-Caucasian player to play in the NBA, known then as the Basketball Association of America. Wat broke the color barrier in the NBA about the same time as Jackie Robinson did in professional baseball, but with much less fanfare. Wat played before my time, so I never saw him play, but he clearly was a true trailblazer in every sense.

And if Jeremy”s career is cut short by injuries, which is something Blazer fans know only too well, I”d rather not wait around for another sixty-six years to celebrate my Asian heritage and professional basketball. Instead, the Blazers, as well as other professional teams, should host a special night each season because of one simple reason: there are a lot of fans of the team, who happen to be Asian or identify themselves as Asian. It”s the love the game, not the player”s ethnicity, which causes fans to fill the seats.

Portland JACL, Erik Spoelstra

Moreover, even if there are no superstar Asian players out on the floor, we can applaud the accomplishments and contributions to the game made by other Asians, such as Erik Spoelstra, who is the current head coach of the Miami Heat.

Erik, whose mother is Filipino and who graduated from Jesuit High in Beaverton, is the first Asian American head coach in the four major professional sports. In 2012 and 2013, he successfully coached the Heat to back-to-back NBA championships (of course, we all know that would be different if Brandon Roy and Greg Oden had healthy knees).

So, mark your calendar for December 12th. Yes, I”ll be one of the Asians cheering on Jeremy Lin, but rest assured, I”ll be cheering even louder for my Trail Blazers to beat the Rockets.

Professional Asian Basketball Players

Professional Asian Basketball Players in History

NBA Asian Basketball PlayersHistoryPast NBA ProspectsHistory
Jeremy Lin
(Chinese/Taiwanese)
6'3″ 200lbs. Point Guard

2010-present NBA:
Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets

2006-2010 NCAA-Harvard
Palo Alto High School

Kosuke Takeuchi (Japanese)
6’9″ 220lbs Power Forward
2010 NBA Summer League-Minnesota Timberwolves

2008-present JBL-Aisin Seahorses, Japan NT

Yi Jianlian
(Chinese)
7’0″ 250lbs Power
Power Forward
NBA 1st Round #6 draft pick

2007-2012 NBA-Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, NJ Nets, Milwaukee Bucks

2002-present CBA-Guandong Southern Tigers, China NT

Sung-Yoon Bang
(Korean)
6’5″ 190lbs Shooting Guard
2004,2008 NBDL-Roanoke Dazzle, Reno Bighorns

2009-present KBL, S.Korean NT
Sun Yue
(Chinese)
6’9″ 205lbs
Point Guard
NBA 2nd Round draft pick
2008-2009 NBA-Los Angeles Lakers

2003-present ABA/CBA-Beijing Olympians, China NT
Zhang Kai
(Chinese)
2008 NBA Summer League-Sacramento Kings

2005 - present CBA-Dongguan Leopards, China NT
Ha Seung Jin
(Korean)
7’3″ 305lbs Center
NBA 2nd Round draft pick
2004-2006 NBA-Portland Trail Blazers

2009-present KBL-Jeonju KCC Egis, S.Korean NT
Liu Wei
(Chinese)
6’3″ 200lbs Point Guard
2004 NBA Summer League-Sacramento Kings

1997 - present CBA-Shanghai Sharks, China NT
Wang Zhizhi
(Chinese)
7’0″ 275lbs Center
NBA 2nd Round draft pick
2001-2005 NBA-Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers, Miami Heat

1995-present CBA-Bayi Rockets, China NT
Xue YuYang
(Chinese)
6’11″ 265lbs Power Forward
2003 NBA Draft Pick #57 by Denver Nuggets

2002 - present CBA-Hong Kong Flying Dragons, Xinjiang Flying Tigers
Yuta Tabuse
(Japanese)
5’9″ 160lbs Point Guard
2004 NBA-Phoenix Suns, Summer League: Nuggets, Mavs, Clippers, Nets

2003-present JBL-Link Tochigi Brex, Japan NT
Sean “Hsin-An” Chen
(Taiwanese)
6’5″ 200lbs Shooting Guard
2002 NBA Summer League-Sacramento Kings

1999 - present TBL-Yulon Dinos, ABA, CBA-Dongguan Leopards, Taiwan NT
Yao Ming
(Chinese)
7’6″ 310lbs Center
NBA #1 Overall draft pick
2002-2010 NBA-Houston Rockets

1997-2002 CBA-Shanghai Sharks, China NT
Ma Jian
(Chinese)
6’5″ 200lbs Shooting Guard
1995 NBA Preseason-Los Angeles Clippers

1993-1995 NCAA-Utah Utes
Rex Walters
(Japanese, White)
6’4″ 190lbs Point Guard
NBA 1st round draft #16
1993-2000 NBA-New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat

1991-1993 NCAA-Kansas
Wataru Misaka
(Japanese)
5’7″ 150lbs Point Guard
1947 NBA draft
1947-1948 NBA-New York Knicks

1943-1947 NCAA-Utah

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