The Imperials Purple

The Imperials Purple were a women’s basketball team that dominated California’s Japanese American women’s leagues in the 70’s and 80’s. 

Japanese American basketball leagues began to be established in the early 20th century, when existing basketball leagues were white only. When Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War 2, playing basketball was an emotional escape from internment. After the war, Japanese American leagues persisted on the West Coast, even as white leagues became desegregated.

The Imperials Purple won effectively every game in the Southern California Women’s Athletic Union, a Japanese American league. Official records weren’t kept, but their reputation has stood the test of time. When the Imperials Purple played against the champions of the Northern California league, they won six state titles in the 80’s. Today, many of their players are still active in various teams in the Orange Coast Sports Association, a league for Asian American women age 40 and older.