A 6-9 silky smooth forward, "Wee" Willie Gardner was one of the first players signed by the Harlem Globetrotters prior to the 1954 season at the age of 19. The young phenom from Indiana quickly made an impact with the Globetrotters, helping the team capture the "World Series of Basketball" title against the College All-Americans in 1954. The 21-game series attracted an attendance of 277,393 as the Globetrotters posted a 15-6 record and Gardner was named Most Valuable Player. The former Crispus Attucks High School standout duplicated his efforts during the 1957 "World Series of Basketball" en route to earning MVP honors for the second time.
After three seasons with the Globetrotters, Gardner signed a two-year contract with the NBA's New York Knickerbockers in April of 1957. However, he never played for the Knicks as a heart impairment required him to retire at the pinnacle of his young and promising career. Born on October 30, 1933, Gardner was named to the Silver Anniversary Team by the Indiana Hall of Fame in 1977. He received his "Legends" ring during a special halftime ceremony at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on January 17, 1998. Gardner passed away on Sept. 28, 2000, just a month shy of his 67th birthday.