It’s hard to not root for someone like Kiwi Gardner — a 5-foot-7-inch point guard who came into fame thanks to a series of highlight reels on YouTube that have received millions of views over the last few years.
After a not-so-successful college career, Gardner tried his hand at making it to the NBA, but that dream was soon squandered when he went undrafted in 2013. Nevertheless, he kept his options open by staying stateside and playing in the D-League for the Santa Cruz Warriors, who snagged him in the seventh round of the draft.
The numbers he put up in his first season as a reserve with the Golden State Warriors’ D-League affiliate weren’t eye-popping — 6.8 points, 2.9 assists, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest — but when he did get minutes, he showcased the skillset that turned him into a YouTube sensation, and he became a fan favorite along the way. For example, on December 12th, he helped the Warriors pull off an unlikely comeback by scoring 23 points on 9-for-10 shooting from the field in just nine minutes off the bench; three months later, he put up some gaudy totals of 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals in 21 minutes in a loss to the Iowa Energy.
While the body of work he put together wasn’t enough for a team to take a gamble on him, Gardner’s season in the D-League was a huge success, and he found on today that he has been rewarded for his hard work in the form of a spot on the Golden State Warriors’ Summer League team. Kirk Lacob broke the news to him, and Gardner was so elated for the opportunity to strut his stuff on a bigger stage that he gave the Santa Cruz Warriors’ general manager the biggest hug.
Well, that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Video via @dleaguewarriors.