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SALT LAKE CITY — Basketball fans across the United States are showing renewed interest in the story of a Utah sports legend more than 65 years after he made a splash on the national scene. It all stems from the surprise emergence of NBA star Jeremy Lin.
It's the kind of story you couldn't make up: Lin, an NBA player of Taiwanese descent, has lead the New York Knicks to six straight wins. It's a phenomenon that's being dubbed "Linsanity."
Following this Cinderella story closely is former University of Utah basketball star Wat Misaka.
"It's unbelievable, beyond any wildest dreams I'm sure," Misaka said Wednesday.
If anything, Misaka's story rivals Lin's. Misaka, whose parents are Japanese, grew up in Utah, played at Weber State, then the U.
"My career at the university was just a short two years, but two fairly significant years," Misaka recalled.
The defensive guard helped lead the Utes to national championships both years, including 1944, while the U.S. was still at war with Japan and other Japanese-Americans were living in internment camps.
"You know, it was a time when I felt like sports transcended war," said Arnie Ferrin, Misaka's former teammate.
"He played so hard that he got great ovations in New York City during the wartime — because of how he played, not because of who he was," Arnie Ferrin said.
Josh Ferrin, Arnie's grandson, is co-author of a book about the 1944 Ute team and Misaka, called "Blitz Kids."
"I think it's one of the great forgotten stories of basketball," Josh Ferrin said.
Misaka was drafted and played for a short time with the New York Knicks, Lin's team, making Misaka the first Asian-American professional basketball player.
"Your old heritage is something to be proud of, and I'm sure (Lin) feels the same way," Misaka said. Meanwhile, the rights to Josh Ferrin's book, "Blitz Kids," have been sold and the story could soon become a Hollywood movie.