After a season ending knee injury, Khalif Wyatt shares his hoop journey and how he turned his injury from a negative into a positive. How he built his brand and why giving back to the youth and his community is so important to him.
Early in February, everything would drastically change for me. My team at the time, Hapoel Holon was having one of its best seasons in team history. We were in second place and had a great chance of competing for Israel Championship. I was personally having the best season of my career, averaging almost 19 points a game and considered as one of the best guards in the Israeli League. And then just like that everything changed, I went down with a knee injury. I tore my ACL and just like that that my season was officially over. I’ve never missed a game in my career and this was my first time ever being injured in my life. My future now would consist of month and months of gurgling rehab and recovery.
I was initially devastated, but rather than waste time sulking, I stayed active. I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason and it was on me to turn a negative situation into a positive for me.
I decided to focus my energy on getting my knee 150%……….my business and community service projects.
According to most statistics, the odds were already stacked against me growing up in Norristown, a town 25 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I was the youngest of three children, raised by a hard working single mother. Basketball has always been my passion from a young age; I grew up idolizing Allen Iverson and LeBron James. I always envisioned basketball as a way to make a difference for myself and my family.
My senior year of high school my team won the PIAA District Championship for the first time in 19 years. I decided to stay close to home and attend Temple University and play for legendary college coach Fran Dunphy. I finished my career as the Atlantic Ten and Big 5 Player of the Year.
I ended up going undrafted but was offered to sign a free agent contract hometown Philadelphia 76ers. Even though I was eventually released from the team, it was still a dream fulfilled to get the opportunity to play for my home town team.
After being released by the 76ers, I decided to sign in China with the Guangdong Southern Tigers. Crazy to think that basketball literally would take me all the way to the other side of the world. After basically living in Philly for my entire life, being away from home was a tough obstacle early on. Living in China, was a complete culture shock for me. To say I was homesick would be a definite understatement. The food and the overall lifestyle was the biggest adjustments. I would literally call my mom every day and tell her to get me out of there. But after a couple weeks, I got used to life in China and started to really focus in on basketball. Before the season ended, I was released. Although my stint in China didn’t end the way I wanted, I was still grateful for the experience as it taught it me a lot. I decided to return home and finish the season in the D League with the Springfield Armour.
Next season, I decided to head back overseas but this time to Israel to sign with Hapoel Eilat. Israel was definitely, and easier adjustment for me as life here is similar to life back home in the US. The majority of people speak English, the food is similar, and the weather is incredible. Once I adjusted to being away from home and got used to life in Israel everything else became easy. I’ve had now been here in Israel for the last four season, and it becomes sort of my second home. The fans in Israeli are the main reason why I feel so comfortable there. The Hapoel Holon fans are extremely passionate about the team and even despite my injury have continued to give me amazing support. The day after my injury, 100 fans came and knocked on my door to give me chocolate and flowers. They began chanting MVP and letting me know that no matter what, they were with me. I was surprised, but it is exactly what I needed at the time.
As I mentioned before, I always envisioned using basketball and my success to help benefit my community and help make a difference. Basketball has given me the opportunity to see the world, and I wanted to share that with my community and my peers. Along with my friends, I have sponsored some different events to give back to my community each year. Community services are important to me because when I was growing up, nobody was doing it. I always heard stories about successful people, but I never saw them come back to their community and make a difference. I want to make a difference. And hopefully, the next kid who makes it out my neighborhood, hopefully, he comes back and does the same. I’m just trying to lead by example and promote togetherness.
I was taught to look at the positive side of every situation. Although I wish I could be playing right now with my teammates in Israel, I decided instead of sulking about my injury; I will instead put my energy else where and continue to make a difference. Since my injury, I started a real estate investment company and launched sports apparel and training company. So I’ve been keeping myself busy as well as rehabbing my knee. I decided to put all the energy that I usually spend on basketball into building my brands and business. I credit my long time friend and business partner Christopher Darden for helping me to start thinking about life outside of basketball. We began brainstorming ideas to build a brand. We wanted to create something that would motivate and be positive for the community.
We first decided to create Wyatt 1 Holdings LLC, a real estate investment holding company, with the goal to help revitalize neighborhoods and provide investment opportunities to people. We started our first project in the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia. Over the next five years, our goal is to invest 500k back into the Urban communities of Philadelphia. Next, we created Marathon Mindset and Marathon Sport. The mission of Marathon Mindset is a motivational fitness campaign that is geared towards motivating people to chase their dreams no matter what and to take care of themselves both physically and mentally. Marathon Sport is the clothing apparel and training company that will support the Marathon Mindset campaign. We recently just started our social media campaign and we received over 75 testimonies from people wanted to share their stories to help motivate others. From athletes to entertainers to businessman and business woman, we have a wide variety of testimonies that we think everyone can relate to. We had our first pop up shop with was a huge success. We still have a long way to go, going to be a lot of long days and long nights., but I am enjoying the process.
My primary goal is to motivate the youth. I want them to know that anything that they put their mind to they can accomplish. I also aim to motivate my peers. The best thing about this process of building the Marathon Sports brand is that I’m doing it with my close friends. I want everybody just to come together and aim for a common goal. It’s too much pointless competition in my community and communities alike. Together we’re always stronger than when we are separated. I say all that to say another huge goal that I have is to bring people together.
My advice to young players looking to start their basketball journey even though it’s cliche, Never let anybody tell you can’t do something. If you want to do something the only person that can stop you is you. It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it. #MarathonMindset #MarathonSport
Thank you for reading