Hapa Hoops: Hapas Can Jump Too

Hello there! My name is Kelly Gates and I am working in the Watase Media Arts Center here at the Japanese American Nation Museum as one of the 2013 Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns. I recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz majoring in Film and Digital Media. I have moved back home  for just the summer (hopefully). Now that I have been thrown into what people call the “real world” as I try to figure out what I want to do with my life. On to the real reason you’re reading this article…

 

“It was funny they were talking about nicknames and mine was ‘haole’ and mine was ‘big eyes’.” —Rex Walters

This past Saturday (June 22, 2013) the museum held the event “Hapa Hoops: Japanese American Basketball and Community with Rex Walters”. The event screened JANM’s own film Crossover (2000) followed by a conversation with former JA league player turned NBA player turned coach, Rex Walters and co-curator for the Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History exhibition, Dr. Lily Anne Yumi Welty. Crossover is a short documentary on the ever growing and changing of the Japanese-American basketball community and leagues. The film was directed by a previous JANM employee and director of the four most recent The Fast & The Furious films, Justin Lin. The film address the history of the JA leagues by looking at how and why they started and goes all the way to the present day (well, 2000) structure of the leagues.

“When she [mom] got really mad at me or really mad about something she would call me a banana, ‘Oh you’re yellow on the outside but you’re white on the inside. You’re not really Japanese.” But it was all in good fun.” —Rex Walters

When it came time to have the conversation with Rex Walters and Dr. Lily Anne Welty, I could not help but feel like we were all in group huddle during halftime of a game. I played basketball on my high school team and he made me flash back to those memories. It was funny how Mr. Walters mentioned a past coach always giving motivational speeches and now here he was doing the exact same thing. I personally found Mr. Walters to be quite inspirational. He enjoyed playing for the San Jose Zebras and mentioned he liked the JA basketball league experience better than his high school basketball experience. Mr. Walters even admitted he was not the best player on the team and spent some time warming the bench, but look at how far he got. He played in the NBA and helped his team get into the Final Four and now he is the head coach at the University of San Francisco. Listening to his story, I regretted not playing basketball my senior year in high school and not trying to play in college. It was especially nice to see a fellow hapa person there, talking about his experience and his (what I would still call) a successful career.

“Basketball is just like anything else. It’s a way of bonding and teams just naturally bond. Whether you’re really good, really bad you kind of have to stick together, you have to come together.”

Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History is on view through August 25, 2013. For more info about the exhibition >>

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