At NBA Summer League, there are hundreds of aspiring big league players hoping to stand out. Unfortunately for them, that's an incredibly difficult task in a setting like this. So many athletes are on similar paths and have skill-sets that resemble one another. With so many players in similar situations, the lines are blurred and it's difficult to differentiate
This is why it's all the more important to reel in character guys as well. After seeing some of the same faces return to hit the hardwood in Las Vegas year after year, it's easy to understand that there's probably a reason why these same guys haven't made the cut.
The opportunity is there for fresh faces, but such up and comers need to find unique ways to make a splash.
Luckily for Kiwi Gardner, that's never been much of an issue.
A former YouTube sensation, the guard is a fan-favorite for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the D-League. He stands at 5'7" and weighs in at about 155 pounds. What's more, his signature dread-locks make him an easy man to spot. One of the most lively and vocal players in all of the minor league, Gardner is a fiery young gun with plenty of passion. Usually, that translates well onto the court. He can hop off the bench and provide a scoring punch or pure defensive intensity in bunches.
Needless to say, he's one of the most animated youngsters around. His internet fame was recently reclaimed, with this rather fun clip featuring Gardner nearly tackling Golden State Assistant General Manager Kirk Lacob. What was the reason behind such an act? The young gun had learned he made the NBA squad's Summer League team.
As fate would have it, Gardner's reaction was caught on tape, and after seeing it for themselves, fans went bonkers with excitement.
That was kind of mind-blowing," the guard told RidiculousUpside.com about the reception his reaction has gotten so far. "I had no idea that they were recording it, but Coach [Casey] Hill ended up getting it on his phone. [My reaction] was genuine."
Gardner hasn't received much playing time in Las Vegas, but he's remained upbeat and his team, has, nevertheless, felt his presence throughout. He hops up and down, cheers on his teammates on the floor, taunts his opponents from the bench, and is the first one to distribute high-fives and hugs following each timeout.
"This has been amazing. I've been able to continue learning. You look around these arenas, and it's NBA everything. NBA coaches, logos, etc.," he added. "You're playing against teams like the Lakers and the Suns. It's hard to be down about anything."
Perhaps helping Gardner through the process has been the familiarity he has with other members of the Summer League team. He's joined by some of his past Santa Cruz teammates and coaches, including Casey Hill, who is serving as an assistant on Golden State's bench.
"He's the guy that's going to come in, if and when that happens, and he'll play balls to the wall," Coach Hill said of Gardner. "He's always going to go hard and chase after the basketball. Even when he's not playing, Kiwi is up and he's vocal. He's a great teammate to have."
The praise appeared to be mutual, as Gardner commended not only Coach Hill, but also first-time head coach Steve Kerr, for the job the staff has collectively done thus far.
"This is Coach Kerr's first time coaching, but obviously he has plenty of knowledge about the game. Having Coach Hill here makes it much easier for me to learn," he added. "Because I'm more comfortable asking him questions. This has been working out for me so far."