Khalif Battle and his hometown friend, Quan Silvera, would scrape together a couple of dollars as kids to pay for their train tickets into New York City or to shop for clothes. However, finding a way to fund their hangouts came with challenges.
“We always hustle as kids,” Battle said. “We were always trying to find something we could make money off of, which was like reselling shoes or whatever the case may be.”
The Temple University men’s basketball sophomore guard used that same hustle mentality to create his own brand. The NCAA adopted Name, Image and Likeness on June 30, 2021, granting student-athletes a chance to profit off their name, and Battle has utilized this opportunity to give himself exposure and give back to his community.
He decided to design his own clothing line. Battle’s first collection of clothes, t-shirts that say “Battle Tested,” were released on April 6.
The six-foot-five-inch guard averaged 21.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game prior to suffering a season-ending foot injury against La Salle University on Dec. 1, 2021.
While watching the Owls from the sidelines and focusing on rehab, Battle used his spare time to also read about the NIL policy. As a student-athlete who’s verified on Instagram with more than 16,000 followers, Battle constantly received offers from companies for endorsement deals, he said.
“I got a lot of offers to do stuff,” Battle said. “But I always felt like the person that was giving me the offer was gonna benefit more than me and I just put my money into my own thing, so that way I profit off my own name.”
CREATING ‘BATTLE TESTED’
After talking with his dad Gary Battle about the NIL rules and whether he should brand himself rather than take an endorsement deal, Khalif felt comfortable investing his money into marketing himself.
Following their discussion, Khalif needed to figure out what he wanted the brand to be. After Khalif underwent surgery on his leg in late December, he stayed at his home in Hillside, New Jersey, for a couple of weeks.
One day, Silvera visited and said to Khalif, “You might as well start finding things you can open up your mind to,” referring to Khalif finding another outlet to put his focus into during the recovery process.
Silvera knew Khalif had an interest in fashion and wanted to create his own clothing brand, so Silvera saw this as an opportunity to make it happen. Khalif began researching design logos by different sketch artists on Instagram. He then thought of the line “Battle Tested” to use on the tees.
One night, while playing in a summer league as a kid in Harlem, New York, Khalif dropped 40 points. During the game, the announcer told Khalif he was “Battle Tested” and the name stuck, he said.
For Khalif, the name represented always fighting to do better even when he was being challenged, he said
Silvera also helped Khalif with the creation of the t-shirts. As time went on, the two would talk on FaceTime to relay ideas. At first, Silvera and Khalif tried to design a shirt with a journey theme that would reflect Khalif’s transition from childhood to college, Silvera said.
Khalif decided instead to use a cartoon illustration of himself to capture a child-like image because he wanted the shirts to appeal to adults and kids.
He knew of a sketch artist, who goes by the name “Karp SZN” on Instagram because he had previously made different logos for Khalif as a fan, but Khalif said he would pay him if he made the logo for the shirts.
Khalif thought he wouldn’t have the shirts ready on time, because the website wasn’t completed yet but with Silvera’s contribution, they made it work. While Battle was finishing up the last touches to the website, his friend helped connect Khalif to 555 Stickers, a California-based apparel company.
“He wanted my best interest to make sure I can continue to keep moving forward,” Khalif said. “We both stayed up late nights, I learned a lot from scratch, I didn’t take no classes, nothing. I just was on YouTube, Google and just trying to figure everything out on my own.”
Once the shirts were released, Gary reminded Khalif to make sure he understood the rules of property rights, by ensuring he requested the permission of others to use their images and designs on Khalif’s website, he said.
“Clothing has somebody else’s name on it,” Gary added. “Or some of the company’s name on it, just making sure you have someone else to double-check and look at another set of eyes on you.”
When communicating with Temple, Khalif needed approval to ensure he wasn’t selling any university products. He said the Temple Compliance & Student-Athlete Affairs office told him that he needs permission to use his jersey on the website, or have any photos and designs with the Temple “T” logo in it.
Khalif also needed to give the compliance office an estimate of how much money he would be making, he said.
MEANING BEHIND THE NAME
As a kid growing up in Hillside, Khalif was fortunate to have family by his side during the early stages of his basketball career.
His dad grew up in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, and had a basketball scholarship to play at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, where he was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame in 1999.
After his basketball career came to an end, Gary went on to work in the insurance industry, but he still had a connection to the game. While Khalif and his older brother Tyus Battle, who played at Syracuse University, were around the age of five and eight, Gary started a circuit training program called Team Battle.
The two brothers would help their dad run basketball clinics at various New Jersey high schools.
“It was just a love that our family had for the game and we just started to build a business out of it,” Gary said. “They had to just do all the demonstrations, that was the trade off.”
By the time Khalif was 13 years old, Gary could tell his son was going to play at the college level but reminded Khalif that basketball is not who you are, it’s what you do, Gary added.
Gary emphasized to Khalif financial stability, the importance of saving money and having other passions in life.
“I told him to read books like ‘The Millionaire Next Door’,” he said. “We’ve referenced that quite a bit growing up by saving your money and having a hustle on the side.”
Khalif attended St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, New Jersey, for a year until he transferred to Trenton Catholic Academy, where he met Silvera. The two discussed fashion, food and basketball. Even during art class, Khalif and Silvera talked about starting their own luxury clothing brand, Silvera said.
“We would sit there in class and look at designer brands, shoes, names,” Silvera said. “We’d be in our class talking, we’ll be drawing. We be like, okay let’s get older, let’s do something.”
Trenton Catholic has produced several basketball players to the Division I level, like Myles Powell, a star from Seton Hall University. He currently is on a two-way contract with the Delaware Blue Coats and Philadelphia 76ers.
While Khalif, who averaged 23.7 points per game as a senior, was solely focused on basketball, he also noticed the “eye-opening” difference between a city environment, compared to the suburbs.
“A lot of people don’t make it out of that community,” Khalif added. “I’m one of the lucky ones.”
When Khalif returned to visit Trenton Catholic during the team’s final round of the NJSIAA Group Tournament, on March 12, it sparked the idea to create his own basketball clinic, similar to what his father did.
Khalif plans to host it at Trenton Catholic in July. He hopes to share his experience and knowledge of the game to help the next generation pursue their basketball dreams.
Besides producing more clothing, like hats and shorts, Khalif wants his teammates to sign his deal. He’s already brainstormed slogans for redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn and freshman forward Nick Jourdain.
“I was thinking of a Dame Time tee,” Khalif added. “I was thinking about a Jour-dangerous t-shirt. I’m probably gonna start that up by July.”
Khalif felt the NIL policy offered an opportunity for him to get more exposure as he prepares for the upcoming NBA draft.
He sees himself as an entrepreneur. Watching how hard his mom worked as a waitress at a diner and grandma as a custodian for a high school made Khalif want to be his own boss.
“They never really got that much money because everybody’s moving around from place to place growing up,” Khalif said. “I always told myself that I never wanted to be like that, I didn’t want to work for anybody. I just always wanted to be my own entrepreneur and even if I make it to the NBA, if I’m blessed enough, or be a successful businessman, I always want to branch off and put money into people like my best friends.”