Willie "Woo Woo" Wong

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Willie Wong
Native name 黃顯護
Born 1925/1926
Died (aged 79)[1]
Fremont, California
Nationality American
Other names "Woo Woo" Wong
Occupation basketball player
Known for basketball player
Spouse(s) Jennie
Children 2 sons
Relatives Helen Wong Lum, sister

Willie Wong (traditional Chinese: 黃顯護; simplified Chinese: 黄显护; pinyin: Huáng Xiǎnhù; Jyutping: Wong4 Hin2wu6)[2] (1926 - 2005) was an American basketball player who was born and raised in Chinatown, San Francisco. Though Wong was only 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) tall, he excelled, and was known as one of the finest Chinese American basketball players in the 1940s. He was nicknamed Willie "Woo Woo" Wong by a local sportswriter because fans would shout "Woo Woo" when he scored.[3]

Early life, education and sports career[edit]

Wong was the third of seven children, and his family lived across the street from Chinese Playground, where he learned to play basketball. A sister, Helen Wong Lum, would also go on to stand out as a basketball and tennis player.[1] Wong received his first basketball as a gift in 1939 from an uncle he had never before met.[3]

I used to stand and watch, and I was always the last guy picked for teams. When I got to play, they always yelled at me not to shoot, because I couldn't. That became motivation for me.

— Willie Wong, March 2005 interview[3]

He studied at the St. Mary's School,[4] and then starred at Poly and Lowell high schools in San Francisco, being named to the All-City team in 1945.[3] Wong served in the Army after graduating from high school.[5]

Wong played for an all-Chinese American basketball team sponsored by the H. K. and Frank Sports Shop (aka the Chinese All-Stars) in 1946 and 1947. The Chinese All-Stars played a series of exhibition games against Santa Cruz city league teams; the first, held March 8, 1946, saw the Santa Cruz Sportsman's Shop team win by the score of 50–46. The Santa Cruz Sentinel-News reported the "Chinese scat cagers" were "[t]errific crowd pleasers" and "made swell passes and plenty of nice baskets" but "couldn't beat the backboard control of the Sportsmen".[6] In the second, which was held three weeks later on March 29 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to benefit the local Red Cross, the Chinese All-Stars prevailed, 50–41. The Sentinel-News noted the Chinese All-Stars featured "a smooth passing, fast dribbling" attack and had Chinese numerals on their jerseys "which gave the scorers and announcer a tough time."[7]

The Chinese All-Stars returned to Santa Cruz to play the Hotel team, preseason favorites for the Santa Cruz City League title, on December 16, 1946, winning by a score of 39–34.[8] The Hotelmen won the next match on February 21, 1947, 49–44 in overtime. Willie Wong scored to tie the game at 42 with ten seconds left in regulation, and led the All-Stars with sixteen points for the game.[9] The team from San Francisco, then renamed the Chinese Saints, beat the Hotelmen in their third final game on March 21, 1947, by a score of 46–39. Wong scored 20 for the winners.[10]

In 1947, the Saints won the first Oriental-American basketball championship by defeating the Hawaiian All Stars 48–43. Willie Wong scored 27 for the Saints.[11] The Saints repeated their championship in 1948, defeating the Berkeley Nisei 49–45. Wong scored 16 points to lead all scorers.[12] In 1948, Wong was invited to fly to Shanghai to try out for the Chinese Olympic basketball team.[13]

Sign for Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground at 830 Sacramento St

He was recruited to the University of San Francisco (USF) in 1948 by Pete Newell, where he played off the bench for the 1949–50 varsity squad. USF attended the NIT in 1950, and Wong became the first Chinese American to play in Madison Square Garden.[3] After playing for USF, Wong continued to compete at various local and national tournaments as part of the Saints.

Wong died on September 5, 2005 of leukemia at the age of 79 in Fremont, California.[1]


To honor Wong's athletic achievements, local Chinatown residents successfully petitioned the City and County of San Francisco to rename the "Chinese Playground", where he played as a child and developed his basketball skills, to "Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground".[14][15][16]

The University of San Francisco posthumously inducted Wong into its Hall of Fame in the spring of 2007.[17][18] Wong's family accepted the honor on his behalf.



  1. ^ a b c Chapin, Dwight (8 September 2005). "Obituary, "Willie Wong, 1940s basketball star",". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  2. ^ 關文傑 (27 June 2012). "黃顯護球場重開 嘉惠華童". Worldjournal.com (San Francisco). Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e Chapin, Dwight (13 April 2005). "Profile: Willie "Woo Woo" Wong, USF's little big man". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  4. ^ "History". St Mary's School, San Francisco. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Sportsmen Will Play Chinese". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. 28 March 1946. Retrieved 18 January 2018. Woo Wong is now stationed at Camp Beale but expects to be able to play Friday.
  6. ^ "Sportsmen beat fine Chinese team". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. 10 March 1946. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Chinese cagers beat Sportsmen here 50-41". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. 31 March 1946. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Chinese beat Hotel cagers here 39-34". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. 18 December 1946. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Hotel beats Chinese in overtime 49 to 44". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. 23 February 1947. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Chinese Saints beat Hotelmen here 46 - 39". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. 23 March 1947. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Chinese All Stars Beat Hawaiians". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. AP. 29 December 1947. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Willie Wong Star In Saints Victory". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. AP. 27 December 1948. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Chin, Wong May Play For Chinese In Olympic Games". Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. 14 April 1948. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  14. ^ Bowman, Becky (20 January 2006). "Playground renamed for basketball hero". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  15. ^ "Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground". San Francisco Best Sports History. SF Weekly. 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  16. ^ "Parks: Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground". ParkScan, San Francisco, Neighborhood Parks Council. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  17. ^ "USF To Induct Four Into Athletic Hall of Fame". University of San Francisco Athletics official website. 23 January 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  18. ^ Crumpacker, John (7 February 2007). "USF '56-57 team feted / Squad lost in Final Four following 2 NCAA titles". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 18 January 2018.

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