Q&A with former French League star Kenneth Gardner

June 24, 2014

Kathleen Patterson

Kenneth Gardner is a retired American basketball player best known for playing for the French Club AS Berck. Gardner won the French National Championship in 1973 and 1974. He was also nominated as the best American player in France two years in a row during his 7-year basketball career. Gardner put up 22.8 points per game in the French League until he retired.

Q: What was your most significant memory during your basketball career?

A: My most significant memory was winning the French National Championship two years in a row. Also, thinking back to my high school basketball State Championship game when we won, would be right up there with the other memories.

Q: What was it like switching between the ABA and the French Leagues?

A: My first three years in the French League were by far the best times. After winning those two championship games, all of our spirits were up. After those three years, I then tried out and made the Utah Stars of the ABA. My time with the Utah Stars did not last long, but the memories will always last. One significant memory in the ABA was when I had to guard Dr. J for a whole nine minutes. After my time was up in the ABA, I then continued to play for the French Leagues for another four years. All in all, it was a great experience through which I was able to see the world and learn about different cultures.

Q: How do you keep your passion for basketball alive?

A: Since I played college basketball at the University of Utah, I like to attend and help out at their basketball camps as much as I can. Another way I try and stay involved with basketball would be through coaching. I have coached my children in basketball for many years.

Q: How have the hardships you’ve endured shaped you into the person you are today?

A: I was sick for three to four years, and it was hard to keep my head up. But after fighting off cancer and receiving a new heart, it has kept me driven with a positive outlook on life. My recovery was miraculous, as many of the nurses told me, and I am very thankful every day.

Q: Can you tell us more about your heart transplant and the experience you had with a BYU football player?

A: I had little hope once I figured out that only 3 percent of all the heart donors in the world could support my size and stature (6'5, 280lbs). Once the doctor found the perfect heart for me, I had no idea that it would also bring such a heart-warming story behind it. Nick, who I had found out anonymously was my heart donor, had also donated six other organs. I figured this information out once Nick's family, which included his wife and 18-month-old daughter Hannah, reached out to me. I found out that Nick was once a BYU football player, which ironically was my school's major rival. This donor program saves lives, and I thought to myself, 'how can I give back to this family since Nick was such a hero in my life'. So, we will be hosting a fundraiser for Donor Awareness and Organ Transplant to help raise money for Nick's 18-month- baby daughter, Hannah. We plan on raising roughly $30,000 for this great cause. Regardless of the rivalry between BYU and the University of Utah, the heroism shown by Nick and his family even after their family struggles speaks much volume for how great this program is.

Q: How can we get more information about this fundraiser and help donate toward Donor Awareness?

A: Check out more information at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=30327941#sGF9PzLYgK4W5GRJ.01