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Deuce Aiming for No. 1

They met in 1998 when both were walk-ons to the University of Kentucky football team, looking to play some downs for one of the Southeastern Conference’s perennial  frontrunners. Calling themselves “a couple of underdogs,” Gary Hughes and Tom Malloy, now both 42, were offered very limited playing time and didn’t make much of a name for themselves as Wildcat wide receivers.

But while they may have come up short in fulfilling their gridiron dreams, the best friends and business partners have made impressive strides in the world of sports fashion.

Since 2010, Hughes, who majored in business marketing management at Kentucky, and Malloy, a finance and marketing major, have been heading Deuce Brand, a lifestyle apparel and accessories company that is annually notching profits “of a couple million dollars a year,” Malloy said.

The company has a big e-commerce following, Hughes said. Its products are made in China but they ship to customers around the globe.

Expanding Domestic Presence in Addition to E-Commerce

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“We’ve expanded our brand not only domestically but also our online business is growing every year,” Hughes said. “We have our wholesale business, we have a retailer in Canada called Sport Chek.

We also have about 30 stores in Japan selling Deuce products as well as in the Middle East. We have a very diverse brand, selling in many different channels.”

The brand is a favorite of some of the top players in the National Basketball Association, including seven-time NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, Spencer Dinwiddle of the Dallas Mavericks and Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors and former Lincoln High School standout Norman Powell of the Los Angeles Clippers.

It is a bit of irony that Hughes, who lives in Mission Valley, and Malloy who resides in Bay Ho, have been running their business from a place that has had no professional basketball presence since 1984: San Diego.

Both men ended up moving to San Diego with their wives after vacations that turned into love affairs with the county.

With its trademark peace sign/No. 2 hand gesture, Deuce Brand’s core value is about “having a No. 2 mindset while constantly striving to become No. 1 in everything you do,” Hughes said.

“Tom and I are both white boys, we’re both under six foot, we’re both underdogs, we both walked onto Kentucky and ended up playing U of K football in the SEC, so we’re both underdogs, and that’s the backbone of our brand,” Hughes said. “Our motto is it’s all about the No. 2, but you’re always striving to become No. 1. It’s a motivational mantra that a lot of athletes buy into.”

Deuce Brand sells shorts, t-shirts, tights, jackets, headbands, tank tops, hoodies, pants, hats and socks and even sells its own line of basketballs, but the company specializes in wristbands with motivational phrases emblazoned in high-quality ink.

Message In the Wristbands

Some of the bands’ expressions and quotes include: “TRUST THE PROCESS,” “NEVER GIVE UP,”  “KEEP PUTTING IN THE WORK,” and “POSITIVE VIBES ONLY.”

Professional basketball players are limited in the accessories they are allowed to wear on the court because of NBA rules. The wrist wear is something the hoopsters “can customize, gives them a little bit of swag on the court and makes them feel good,” Hughes said.

Malloy said that wristbands are popular, from kids on playground courts to adults playing basketball in Muni Gym in Balboa Park to the NBA circuit.

The company’s wristbands are made of soft silicone and printed with what the business owners say is high-quality ink injection that stand the test of time. The bands are reversible and as so, allow for two different styles in one wristband.

Out of their Kearny Mesa headquarters, the Southern California transplants – Hughes a native of the Louisville, Ky., and Malloy originally hailing from Des Moines, Iowa – recently sealed a deal with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving for his own line of wristbands.

Wristwear has long been a part of Irving’s on- and off-court style and wardrobe. The Australia native has been part of Deuce’s team since an initial meeting with Hughes and Malloy before he was drafted as the first pick in the NBA draft in 2011 out of Duke University by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Deuce has been working with Irving for years to create a unique variety of bands that the basketball star personally designed and has worn – and has provided Irving with an outlet to express some of his feelings and beliefs.

Now officially on the market, KAI Bands, the second offshoot of their own Deuce band, was created to cater to a community of fans who have been clamoring to share Irving’s motivation, ideology and style, Malloy said.

The first collection of KAI Bands features 3 different styles: The Legacy, The 2.0, and Premium wristbands.  

The Legacy band features “I AM HUMAN” on the outside of the band and the number 11 multiple times around the inside, and comes in eight different colors.

The 2.0 band comes in black and white and features “KAI” on the badge outside and the quote “Be still and know I am grateful for what is meant for me, I will not stop until all my people are free” on the inside.  

The Premium wristband comes in either black, red or white and features “KAI” on the outside and the number 11 multiple times around the inside of the band.

Lakers Coach Has One GOAT Line

Deuce Brand’s first offshoot and one of its top sellers was borne from an idea of Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy.

Handy, who has coached Irving, as well as other NBA standouts, including the late Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and former San Diego State star Kawhi Leonard, has a line of products with Deuce called “BE YOUR OWN GOAT.”

“Phil has coached some of the GOATs (Greatest Of All Time) and his idea was that ‘Everyone’s always talking about who’s the GOAT? Well, why not be your own?’” Malloy explained. “And that motivational brand became his vision and it his concept. But Deuce is the brand manager and we make all the BE YOUR OWN GOAT products.”

Hughes said that while there are a lot of products in the athletic leisure and sportswear product line, the wristbands set Deuce apart.

“We’ve been trying to create our own culture, our own identity,” he said. “We’re more focused internally on developing something that’s different, and I feel like the wristbands for us since we discovered that niche, have been a way for us to grow our brand. We are automatically different because there’s not another company that’s really known for doing really cool wristbands. We’ve been able to do that with our brand.”

Deuce Brand

FOUNDED: 2010

CEO: Gary Hughes

PRESIDENT: Tom Malloy

HEADQUARTERS: Kearny Mesa

BUSINESS: Athletic clothing apparel and sports wristbands

WEBSITE: www.deucebrand.com

NOTABLE: Deuce Brand products are made to China and shipped to customers worldwide.

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