The Gardiner Memorial Tournament, a True Bronx Tale

The Gardiner Memorial Tournament, a True Bronx Tale

Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:27 AM EDT
Gardiner Foundation

Dexter Gardiner

You don’t know Dexter Gardiner, but you should be thankful for him. Every neighborhood has that one person who is completely, selflessly, and maybe even maniacally dedicated to their community. When I was growing up in my hometown, it was Sharon Bacon. When my mother was a child, I’m told it was her father – Babe Kennedy. Well in the Bronx, right now it’s Dexter Gardiner. And last weekend, I was lucky enough to be involved for my second go-around in his foundation’s main event, theGardiner Family Foundation Memorial Classic. “This is our sixth year,” he told me, “and god-willing, I’m gonna keep having them as long as I can.”

Do you know what a local legend is? Like a real local legend? The kind that not only does something great, but comes back to your hometown – and does something good?  That’s Dex. He grew up at 198th on Briggs. He’s a local kid that led the nation in scoring twice in junior college. And, he’s the kind of man that you can’t walk with for fifteen feet without having to stop as he strikes up (or gets pulled into) a conversation. Old women, kids, grown men – everyone wants to talk to “Twin.” They ask him about the tournament, thank him for doing what he’s done… And then they hug him, and let him know they still pray for his family.

You see, this is a memorial tournament after all. It’s hard to remember that when the music is playing, the food is on the grill, and the announcers are calling the game. And there are hundreds – even thousands – of people crowded around St. James Park in the Bronx, cheering on players as they dart up and down the court, and soar through the air. But you haveto remember, because Dexter can’t forget.


“Go Get It” driving to the hoop in the 7th Gardiner Memorial Classic

This was supposed to be for his mother and sister. In 2006 Dexter and his twin brother Derrick – both local basketball legends and former college players – started the Gardiner Foundation. The idea was to honor the women they loved, raise money for local kids, and give the neighborhood something to cheer for.

Derrick had moved to Mississippi, “He was a pioneer. He opened a clothing store and a barber shop. He moved away from New York City to make a better life.” So he had to pack up and head to New York for the first annual Gardiner Foundation tournament.


Maybe heaven really is a playground…

The court is beautiful in a way that can only truly be appreciated if you love basketball. A fresh coat of bright blue paint, lines crisply drawn to show you where the boundaries are. The kind of asphalt that grabs your sneakers as you change directions, no slipping, no excuses. The hoops are old-school NYC hoops, metal backboards with holes that clang when you slap them, and single rims – bright, orange, and sturdy. The kind that are honest enough to reward a good shooter, but sound an ugly alarm if you don’t have the stroke. They’re surrounded by three 15-foot chain link fences, and a row of parade barriers opposite the scorer’s table, to hold out the crowds. No cracks, no divots, no broken glass, and no blood. With apologies to Rick Telander, if heaven truly is a playground, it’s at 193rd street, and Jerome Avenue.

There’s been a rash of violence at street tournaments this summer. Shootings, stabbings, and fights. Dexter met with the local police to make sure there was an extra presence, he couldn’t afford to have an incident at this kind of positive community event. Or maybe he’s just had enough tragedy for one life time.

Team “” Huddling up during out opening round victory

Derrick doesn’t make it to his tournament game. Dexter’s twin brother, his niece and two nephews are killed in a car crash on the Bronx River Parkway on their way to the tournament. Dexter’s mother, his sister, his brother, his niece, his nephews – most of his family, gone in mere months. “We buried three in New York, three in Mississippi.” Dex tells says, “But we had to have the tournament, Derrick would want to keep going. This is how I keep going.” So a second memorial tournament was held that summer.  Which is why this is the sixth year, but the seventh edition of the Gardiner Foundation Classic.

He tells me the story like he’s told it a hundred times, probably because he’s re-lived it a thousand times. I don’t know how he does it, I worry I couldn’t handle it. He has a calmness about him that only acceptance brings. But it’s obvious that the foundation is driven by way his family lived, not the way they died.

“Derrick used to bring kids up every summer from Mississippi. He’d call me and say, ‘Hey, I got another one, he’s a good kid. Make sure you have room for us.’ And we’d put that kid up for a summer. Put him on a basketball team, show him there was more to the world than just his neighborhood.

Jeff Korek, ready for action.

If you’ve ever played pickup basketball, you know: more often than not, fate chooses your teammates. Randomness. It runs most basketball courts.

Dexter was playing in a league in Westchester, and told some of the guys about his foundation, and what he was trying to accomplish. He was looking for a little help, somebody to volunteer, or maybe just a small donation. Instead he got Jeff Korek, who wanted to do a little more than that. His firm Gersowitz, Libo and Korek decided to sponsor The Classic. Because sometimes, even a really dedicated player still needs an assist.

So how did I get on a team? I know Jeff from a very different game. East Hampton summer pickup. It’s mostly fathers and 20-somethings, getting a sweat out before heading to the beach. Oh, there are nicknames… But it’s things like “The Ninja” (a white guy that does a ton of pregame yoga), and “mouthpiece” (he wears a mouthpiece).

Jeff invited me to come play on the “house” team. This year we had guys that played for St. John’s, guys with nicknames like “The Matrix”, and “Go Get It” – who played at Long Beach State.

My brother and I showed up, played pretty well – and we even got nicknames ourselves!  He was “Mikey Likes It” and I was “Erik Estrada.”  Okay, admittedly, not the coolest nickname in the world, but it’s the second year they’ve called me by it… So at least they remember me. And it’s better than “The Cable Guy” – which was given to another white guy.

“Erik Estrada” & “Mikey Likes It!”



“Swoopin’ and Hoopin’ ” – Clyde Frazier (If he was there… )

And our team, the “” team won our first game this year. Making it to the semifinals after beating “Jet Blue” and the rest of Max’s All-Stars.  We got to keep our uniforms, which are some of the nicest I’ve seen from any tournament. The crowd went crazy for every crossover, every blocked shot.

It was electric, you could feel the current every time you subbed in. When the game was over, kids ran up and asked for your sneakers, or your shorts, or an autograph. MC’s and Announcers called the game live over the speakers, opined the Dwight Howard trade, complimented my hair, said whatup to friends that arrived, and took moments between quarters, halves, and games to give out gear to the kids, and remind us why we were really playing.  Dj’s played Jay-Z and Frank Sinatra so loud, you could hear it from the Kingsbridge 5-train stop. A 5’7” dude named “Jet Blue” was dunking everything, Walt Frazier’s son was there, Half-Man Half-Amazing showed up – this was a a place for both real ball players, real fans, and people that just wanted to see their neighbors, and maybe eat some Pepsi Chicken (as delicious as it sounds).

But even if that last paragraph doesn’t mean anything to you, this will: They gave out three $1,500 dollar scholarships to local kids, to help pay for college. “I wish you could hear them, when I tell them they’re getting the scholarship…” Dexter says, laughing, “They go crazy! Yelling at me, like ‘Nah! Stop lying!’ “


They gave away 12 laptops.

They doled out 150 backpacks loaded with school supplies.

They gave away socks, hats, sneakers, tee shirts…

They fed everyone in a 8 block radius – anything to make sure that people showing up to this event know, as the announcers put it: “This is for our community. We have to do it, nobody is going to do it for us.”

Well, nobody except for Dexter – who’s already planning ahead. He wants to be able to give out 4-year scholarships to each kid. It’s not enough to just get them to school, he wants to keep them there, let them know that somebody is pulling for them to graduate. To make a better life, just like his brother.

“I can’t live without this tournament. I have to do it, it keeps my brother alive.”

Him and many others, from what I can tell.


2012 Gardiner Memorial Classic Recap

The Bronx celebrated life through basketball this past weekend.

by Romel Lherisson Jr.

St. James Park in the Bronx was more crowded than the average Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. The reason was the 7th annual Gardiner Foundation Memorial Classic. The event was a fun filled weekend of unity and peace within the community.

There were several games played throughout the two days of the event. Some notable names were AND1 players Half Man Half Amazing, Future and NYC streetballer Africa. John Starks also tipped off the ball  in the first game of the event Saturday afternoon.

Basketball takes the back role in the event, however. It is more focused on helping the community and especially those families who lost family members to sudden and tragic deaths.

The inaugural year was set up to honor Dexter Gardiner’s mother and sister who died earlier that year. His twin brother contributed to the event until he and 5 other family members died in a car accident leaving the tournament that same evening in 2009.

Somehow, Dexter found enough strength to continue and keep the event going. He founded the Gardiner Foundation to help pay for funeral costs and show support to others dealing with similar situations. State Senator in the 33rd District Gustavo Rivera said, “I’ve always been supportive of the Gardiner Foundation and the efforts of Dexter,” as he paused for an amazing dunk. “Dexter is someone that took something negative and made it positive and brought something great to this community.“

The main supporter behind the Gardiner Foundation and the Gardiner Foundation Memorial Classic is Jeff Korek of the law firm Gersowitz, Libo and Korek (

“We were in the same basketball league in Westchester and he was on the team and he handing out information to see if anyone wanted to help out with benefit. Instead of giving out 50 dollars or 20 dollars, I said let me speak to my boy and see if we can get behind in a big way and see if we can add to what he was already doing–showing a lot of love to the community,” Korek explained.

Additional supporters include Time Warner, Cablevision and other local businesses.

The Gardiner foundation annually gives out several gifts and prizes throughout both days of the event. This year the Gardiner Foundation agve out laptops, cameras, free food to everyone in attendance, backpacks filled with school supplies, and scholarships to college bound high school seniors. Plaques are also presented to community members who have lost loved ones, as well as burial assistance.

The championship game ended with smiles and cheers as the Bobby All-stars defeated the Kirk Flirt All-stars with Half Man Half Amazing as the MVP.

The event closed with an important message to all, and one we should all practice. “Tell everyone you love, that you love them today. Because there is no guarantee they will make it to tomorrow.”

Remembering lost loved ones — and rewarding young scholars — at annual Bronx hoops tourney

Remembering lost loved ones — and rewarding  young scholars — at annual Bronx hoops tourney

Gardiner Family Foundation Memorial Classic in St. James Park awards scholarships to college-bound students and gives backpacks to local schoolkids



Dexter Gardiner prepares for the Gardiner Memorial Basketball Tournament at St James Park on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx

Dexter Gardiner has been busy the last few days preparing for the Gardiner Family Foundation Memorial Classic, which has been held for the past six summers in St. James Park, where he and his late twin brother Derrick became streetball stars.

There was the usual painting of the basketball court, seeding the park, buying the food, making sure the backpacks to be given away to schoolkids were ready, and the best chore — telling the scholarship recipients they had won.

“They go crazy, they’re so happy,” said Gardiner.

And, in this hot summer of guns blazing on basketball courts and playgrounds in the Bronx and across the city, Gardiner met with police from the 52nd Precinct about security for the thousands expected to attend on Saturday and Sunday.

For the first time, “it’s a such a big concern to me,” Gardiner said. “We had a meeting with the police, and a lot of cops will be out there. I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Just last Monday night, four teens were wounded on a Brooklyn basketball court when a gunman on a bike fired shots at the court. Last month, 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan was killed by a stray bullet after a basketball memorial tournament in a Morrisania housing project.

“It’s been happening so frequently,” said Gardiner.

“But for six years we have people coming out in peace and love, a family atmosphere,” he said. “They look forward to this event.”

The tournament was born out of a desire to honor his late mother, who he said “taught us how to give back to the community.”

He and his twin played college and street basketball, coached two teams and were active in St. James Park, where they grew up.

When their mother and aunt died in 2006, the twins set up a community event in their honor that July, calling it the Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic.

Derrick came up from Mississippi with a traveling team to play in the tournament. After it ended, he drove away in a car with six others, including his 6-year-old daughter and three nephews.

Derrick, his daughter, and two nephews were among six people killed in a car crash on the Bronx River Parkway, on July 9, 2006.

Gardiner knew his brother would want him to continue to hold the tournament, so he did, honoring the deceased family members, creating two days of fun and positive energy for hundreds of kids. This weekend, they’re expecting about 3,000 people to attend the tournament this weekend.

Gardiner did not have any money to bury those killed in the crash, and the city helped.

So that’s why he set up the Gardiner Family Foundation, which awards scholarships to college-bound kids and helps families deal with tragic losses by assisting with burial costs and giving moral support.

He said relatives of the seven family members killed in a similar crash on the Bronx River Parkway in April — in which the van went over the guardrail and plunged into the Bronx Zoo — are slated to come to the tournament to be honored.

Jacob Nunez, 84, his wife, Ana Julia, 80, their daughters Maria Gonzalez, 45 and Maria Rosario, 39, and granddaughters Jazlyn Gonzalez, 9, Naily Rosario, 7 and Marlyn Rosario, 3, all died on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, just like Derrick.

Three Bronx kids are getting $1,500 scholarships.

Players come from across the city, including many college standouts and street ball superstars.

A few years ago, Jeff Korek, partner at Gersowitz, Libo and Korek PC law firm, played basketball with Gardiner in a Westchester County league and learned about Gardiner’s loss. He got his firm to help sponsor the tournament.

“We’ll give away backpacks, some iPads and laptops,” said Korek. “Each year we try to make it better. We want to brand St.James Park as a place that does good.

“We continue to have faith…we point out before it starts that this is a memorial and the purpose of everybody being here is to bring honor to their families and those of others who suffered tragedy.”

The park is on Jerome Ave. and 193rd St. In case of rain the tournament will take place inside Gauchos Gym on Gerard Ave. It starts at noon each day. (Check out

“This is the seventh year, and every year the crowd is bigger and bigger,” said Gardiner. “We just want everyone to have a good time, and honor those who lost loved ones in tragedy.”

Read more:

Survivor to Survivor: “I know What Your Going Through”

Survivor to Survivor: “I know What Your Going Through”

(Construction crews begin setting up a new barrier at the site of the most recent crash.–Photo by Amparo Cruz)
(A classmate of one of the victims speaks to reporter’s after a funeral mass for the seven victims at St. Raymond’s Church in Parkchester.–Photo by David Greene)


By David Greene
A Bronxite who lost five members of his family as well as a close friend, has reached out to the Soundview family who lost seven members in the latest multi-fatal crash along the Bronx River Parkway.
Dexter Gardiner was hosting a memorial basketball game dedicated to his mother and sister who had passed away in the same year, when a horrific crash on July 9, 2006, claimed the lives of Asia, 6; Dexter’s twin Derrick, 40; Jamel, 16; Tuywann, 23; brother in law Brandon Days, 18; and friend Jeremy Blackwell, 23.
The family members had left the game at St. James Park in the Fordhamsection, and were traveling southbound on the Bronx River Parkwway between the Bronx Zoo and E. 177 Street exits, when their vehicle jumped the center divider and plowed into on-coming traffic.
Gardiner, a Burke Avenue resident recalled, “I visited them the day after the crash. I know what they’re going through right now, so I just wanted to be there to support them.”
Coincidentally, Gardiner was driving with his girlfriend when his son called to tell him about the car that flew off the Bronx River Parkway and into the Bronx Zoo on April 29.
The latest crash claimed the lives of Maria Gonzalez, 45; Maria Maria Munez, 39; Ana Martinez, 81; Jacob Nunez, 85; Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10; Niely Rosario, 7; and Marly Rosario, 3.
Recalling getting the tragic news, Gardiner stated, “Oh man, I was devastated. It was like a flashback… it was heartbreaking.”
To no avail, Gardiner had reached out to state officials to fix the roadway, that had several major flaws but the State Department of Transportation (DOT)did nothing. In fact, Bronx Democratic District Leader Michael Robles survived when his car flew off the parkway last year and landed in front of a Bronx police station.
At the time the DOT vowed to make a statement, but the call never came.
This past week work crews had finished erecting two new, temporary barriers that will keep vehicles on the roadway in the event of a crash, until repairs cane be made.
Monte Dean, a spokesman for the DOT, stated, “The length of the barrier is about 3,000 feet in each direction. I don’t have a cost yet either. No idea.”
Asked about another trouble-spot identified by the Cross Bronx Expressway Initiative, which claims another dangerous location exists on the Cross Bronx Expressway near the Sheridan Expressway, Dean replied, “Well the specific conditions of Bronx River Parkway, where it had that shorter curb along the edge, but we’re looking along the rest of the Bronx River Parkway, but I don’t know if the Cross Bronx or the other roads have that, but I will ask our folks and see what they can tell me.”
William Rivera of the Cross Bronx Initiative, who sent a letter to state officials back in November, 2011, fired back, “It sounds like a cliche, but seven people didn’t have to tragically die to address unsafe conditions.”
Attorney Jeff Korek of Gersowitz, Libo and Korek, who represents the only survivor from the 2006 crash, agreed, offering in a prepared statement, “The Bronx River Parkway has been an on-going problem due to, ‘patchwork’ and ‘band aid,” repairs and faulty design. A proper safety review of this roadway would have prevented many deaths, including these latest.

Bronx River Parkway accident stirs painful memories for man who lost kin

Bronx River Parkway accident stirs painful memories for man who lost kin

Dexter Gardiner’s twin brother also killed on parkway in 2006



Relatives gather in bedroom of Yazlyn Gonzalez, 9, who was killed along with six of her relatives in a horrific crash on the Bronx River Parkway.



The Gardiner twins

On Friday there will be seven caskets at the altar of St. Raymond’s Church for the funeral Mass for the very young and very elderly and prime-of-life victims of the Bronx River Parkway crash, members of the Nunez and Rosario and Gonzalez families.

Dexter Gardiner said he plans to be among the throngs expected at the beautiful old church, where there has never been a funeral such as this will be.

But Gardiner himself has experienced such multiplied agony: his twin brother, Derrick, 6-year-old niece and two nephews were among six people killed in a car crash on the Bronx River Parkway, near the scene of Sunday’s tragedy, back on July 9, 2006.

“We buried three at one funeral in New York and three in Mississippi,” Gardiner, 46, recalled. “It’s a seminal moment . . . seeing all the caskets, it’s a horrible thing.

“They didn’t fix the highway (after the 2006 accident) . . . I can’t express in words, I’m getting choked up.”

When Gardiner heard about the latest crash, “all the memories came back, and I started feeling so sad for the family.”

He and his twin played college and street ball in the Bronx, coached two teams and were active in St. James Park, where they grew up.

When their mother and aunt died in 2006, the twins set up a community event in their honor that July, calling it the Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic.

Derrick came up from Mississippi with a traveling team to play in the tournament. After it ended, he drove away in a car with six others, including his 6-year-old daughter and three nephews.

The day his brother died was, like the day of the latest crash, “a beautiful Sunday afternoon. They were driving southbound, and at a certain place they hydroplaned, went over the divider into oncoming traffic.”

Only one passenger survived.

Gardiner knew his brother would want him to continue to hold the tournament, so he did, honoring the deceased family members, channeling his grief into two days of positive energy from the kids.

He also set up the Gardiner Family Foundation, which awards scholarships to college-bound kids and helps families deal with tragic losses by assisting with burial costs and giving moral support.

He knows what the mourners will feel on Friday at St. Raymond’s at the funeral for Jacob Nunez, 84, his wife, Ana Julia, 80, their daughters Maria Gonzalez, 45 and Maria Rosario, 39, and granddaughters Jazlyn Gonzalez, 9, Naily Rosario, 7 and Marlyn Rosario, 3.

The Mass is expected to draw a bishop, and priests from three parishes where the families attended church and school and from Fordham University, where the mothers toiled as cleaners. Msgr. John Graham, pastor of St. Raymond’s, where Jazlyn was to receive First Holy Communion this Saturday and where she and her brothers attended parish schools, said the large church will not be able to fit the crowds expected….

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Non-stop action at Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic

Non-stop action at Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic

By Kingsley K. Dougan

The Bronx was host to some of the best street ball on the East Coast this past weekend at the 6th Annual Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic Tournament, held in St. James Park and run by The Gardiner Foundation.

The Kingsbridge Body Snatchers defeated the Shane All-Stars to claim this year’s golden watches for the second straight year. Standout Shabby Stanley was this year’s MVP.

The tournament, sponsored by Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. offered free food and beverages and non-stop entertainment to all spectators.

Saturday was filled with four electrifying games that saw monster jams, amazing ball-handling and hard-fought competition. State Sen. Gustavo Rivera stopped by to show his support for the Gardiner Foundation and the Bronx community.

Sunday’s rain caused the tournament to be moved indoors to the famous Gaucho’s Gym on Gerard Ave, but that didn’t stop the crowds from coming out to catch the live entertainment, semi-final action and the youths’ 12 and under all-star game. Most importantly, the Bronx came together to honor their neighbors who have lost loved ones throughout the year and to support and encourage the youth of the community.

The Gardiner Foundation handed out five $1,500 scholarships to college-bound high school seniors, 100 backpacks filled with school supplies to youth in attendance and raffled off 13 laptops.

The Gardiner Foundation was established in 2006 by Dexter Gardiner, in memoriam of six of his family members who lost their lives in a horrific car accident on the Bronx River Parkway. Building upon his family’s legacy of helping others in need and involvement in the game of basketball, the Foundation embarked on a community outreach initiative that offers educational scholarships and financial support, emotional and spiritual guidance and burial assistance to other families in the community who have suffered a sudden and tragic loss.

“Since its inception, The foundation has awarded 16 scholarships to students entering college for the first time and continues to be an expression of hope, resilience and commitment to the Bronx community,” said Alan Farrell, an organizer for The Gardiner Foundation’s two-day event.

Gardiner met Jeff Korek, a partner at the personal injury law firm Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. (, a few years ago when they played in the same amateur basketball league. As Korek and Gardiner continued to play basketball together, Korek learned about The Gardiner Foundation and the amazing work it was doing for the community. After sharing this information with the rest of the firm, Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. immediately wanted to help, and have been the title sponsors for the past three years.

“The Gardiner Foundation continues to be an inspiration to all New Yorkers, and Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. is honored to be the title sponsor for the tournament for the third straight year,” said Korek. “This tournament gets bigger each year, which enables the Gardiner Foundation to expand their reach and inspire so many more people in the Bronx community.”

Bronx streetball legend Dexter Gardiner honors family through basketaball tourney

Bronx streetball legend Dexter Gardiner honors family through basketaball tourney


Dexter Gardiner organized the Gardiner Memorial basketball tournamet in St. James Park to honor his brother Derrick, who died in 2006 in a car accident.


Dexter Gardiner organized the Gardiner Memorial basketball tournamet in St. James Park to honor his brother Derrick, who died in 2006 in a car accident.

Bronx street ball legend Dexter Gardiner is keeping the legacy of his family alive the only way he knows how – by giving back with an annual basketball tournament.
To honor his twin brother, Derrick – a well known player in his own right – who died in a fatal car crash, Gardiner is running a two-day tournament that provides scholarships for local kids.”I look forward to this,” said Gardiner, 44, in his sixth year running the two-day street ball spectacular, sponsored by over the weekend.”My mom taught us how to give back to the community,” he said, recalling not having any money to bury five family members who were killed in the horrific July 9, 2006, Bronx River Parkway crash.

In addition to his brother, his best friend, brother-in-law, niece and two nephews were killed.

Only one person – his nephew – survived.

He said the city chipped in to help cover the funeral costs and ever since he’s wanted to give back.

The tournmanent had been held at St. James Park where he and his brother played, but yesterday’s rain pushed the semifinals and finals inside Gauchos gym on Gerard Ave. Players came from across the city, including many college standouts and street ball superstars.

This year the Gardiner Memorial Foundation gave away 100 book bags and five $1,500 scholarships to local kids, said lawyer Jeff Korek, co-organizer.

“It makes me feel like they are still here with me,” Gardiner said of his family members. “I’ve just been blessed.”

“The community looks forward to this two-day event. Whatever we can do to keep the kids off the streets,” he said.

“This is a part of me. I want to show people that people care.”

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FROM TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH – Gardiner Memorial Classic Tournament- a basketball tournament celebrating the life of lost ones while spreading love and peace.

From Tragedy To Triumph

Gardiner Memorial Classic Tournament- a basketball tournament celebrating the life of lost ones while spreading love and peace.

by Franklyn Calle

Over two thousand people packed St. James Park in the Bronx last weekend for the 5th Annual Gardiner Memorial Classic Tournament. The event featured eight pro men‘s teams in a single game elimination bracket. By Sunday night, Body Snatchers from Kingsbridge and Sure Shots of Fordham were the only two teams standing. But before the 6pm scheduled championship game could tip-off, the charged clouds unleashed on much of the city, causing many to scramble from the rain. The tournament had to go on, and so the title game was moved to the famed Gauchos Gymnasium, also in the Bronx.

Not knowing whether many people would bother to make the trip to Gauchos, which was about a 20 minute ride from the park, expectations weren’t to high. To the surprise of many, by the time the game got underway, the Gardiner Memorial Classic wasshot1 hosting a packed gym.

While Richard Forrea and Malloy Nesmith tried to keep the game close for the Sure Shots, behind the leadership of David Seagers and Lester Hunte, Body Snatchers eventually pulled away to a 115-97 victory. Seagers took home the MVP honors. Participating in the tourney were other renowned names such as former Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers player Trevor Ruffin, former Syracuse University standout and ’01 2nd round draft pick Damone Brown, former Hofstra University standout Loren Stokes, and former Cincinnati standout Leonard Stokes, among many other high school and college prospects. Former New York Knicks star John Starks and current Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon also made special guest appearances.

But this is just the side story.

The story within the story is the significance of the event and the motivation behind it.

Dexter Gardiner, the founder of the Gardiner Memorial Foundation as well as the tournament, started this summer classic in 2006 as way to remember the life of his mother, who’d passed away in January of that year, and his sister, who passed away of cancer in June of the same year. But tragedy struck once again that July when his twin brother, Derrick, who came up to New York from Mississippi to take part in the memorial, got into a fatal car accident in the Bronx River Parkway as they left the event. The accident killed him and five other family members, including his 6-year old daughter and three nephews.

Dexter and Derrick were streetball legends around Kingsbridge, the neighborhood where the park hosts the annual event. “2006 was devastating for me, so out of that I just started it.  At one time, I gave up on everything,” says Dexter.  “But somehow the Lord just blessed me to continue with it and every year it just got bigger and bigger.”

That very first year, Dexter had about $1,500 for the event and simply began pressing t-shirts. That was the case for the first three years until the law firm Gersowitz Libo & Korek stepped in.

“At first, we just played with what we had. My brother and I were streetball legends around the way and people knew who we were, so people came out to support the community. Every year it just got bigger,” Gardiner recalls. “We went from pressing up t-shirts with no numbers on the back to full uniforms.”

Dexter, 44, played in a adults Westchester county league with Jeff Korek, a partner at Gersowitz Libo & Korek. They were teammates for more than a year, when Gardiner walked up to Korek and gave him a flyer for the 2009 memorial. He was collecting any contributions  possible for the event. Korek, moved by the circumstances and the tragedy behind the event, decided to go back to his office and talk to the other partners at the firms about the tournament. It didn’t take long before they all signed on.

“I thought it would be great if Dexter and I partnered up, and if our law firm gave back to the community by giving him some support financially,” says Korek.

The law firm contributed over $30,000 for the tourney’s expenses. During halftime of this year’s championship game, four large flat screen TVs and an iPad were raffled off to adults in attendance. For the children: 48 book bags with school supplies in them were given away, 12 laptops to kids 12 and younger were donated, and four $1,500 scholarships were offered to selected college-bound students. In addition, there was enough food and refreshments for everyone in attendance. Macaroni and cheese, BBQ chicken, rice, and burgers were all part of the menu. And did I mention that it was all free?shot-2

“I think that Dexter’s story is a great story of overcoming human tragedy as supposed to kind of laying down and surrendering.It’s all about getting back on your feet and pulling the community together. Kind of give them support and find support in them,” says Korek (left, in green basketball uniform). “While we do a lot of work trying to help people and repair their lives, Dexter’s living it and trying to contribute to people and repair their lives in a real way. This two-day event I think pulls together a community that needs help in a lot of ways.”

This year, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., Assemblyman Michael Benjamin and his chief-of-staff and wife Kennedy Benjamin, were among the four or five elected officials that stopped by to show their support.

Gardiner’s (above, in baby blue polo shirt)  mission is clear and simple.

“One thing I want to do when people leave from here is see how loving people can be. They consider this area a bad neighborhood and for the last four years we haven’t had a single problem. The people in the community look forward to this,” he says.

“It’s been beautiful. People come out and show love. There’s never any violence. That’s basically what I wanted to do because my mom basically raised me and my family that way. God has just blessed us with what we are doing in the community.”

Kudos to (Gersowitz Libo & Korek), Dexter Gardiner and his staff for this one of a kind event!

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