An artist who goes by “Maso Rich” has produced hyper-faithful, parallel-universe versions of the Instagram accounts of LeBron James and Steph Curry. In these universes, LeBron is a giraffe and Steph, in an inspired bit of casting, is a bush baby. Deadspin spoke with Maso Rich on the phone to understand where these images are coming from, and why.
The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Deadspin: I’ll start out simple. Where did you get the inspiration to depict LeBron James as a giraffe and Steph Curry as a bush baby?
Maso Rich: I’m from Miami, so I’ve been a LeBron fan for a long time. He inspired me really to get more into basketball and all these things back when he was on the Heat. And then I moved to L.A. And then LeBron came here. I’ve just always been a fan. I appreciate the things that he does for people, that he opened a school. He’s always been a great role model. He doesn’t get in trouble. He’s a family man. He’s honestly a person that you can get behind, doesn’t matter who you are. Similar for Steph Curry, but I just was like, after having fun with LeRaffe, I was like, Steph would be fun to do. And then basically I just look at the people. And LeBron was decided before everyone as LeRaffe because I wrote a TV show in 2011 called Animal Friends and one of the episodes was about LeBron. So that’s a different story, though it’s unrelated to 2019, when I just wanted to have an Instagram for fun.
DS: How do you decide on these specific animals? What is your casting process like?
MR: I look at the photo and I’m like, well—LeBron, he was just a generic basketball player in my mind originally, and basketball players are tall. So giraffe. Then I looked at Steph Curry and I was like, Oh he looks like, you know, kind of like a bush baby. I have Shaun Livingston, if you go to the Steph Curry account, as a donkey. He looks like a donkey. It is what it is. So I’d just look at their faces and I’d do my best. There’s not really a process—I just, like, look into my soul and see what comes out.
DS: Right. So LeBron is a giraffe, and Savannah James appears to be a big cat, maybe a puma—
MR: Lion. Her name’s Savannah.
MR: It’s just not the best drawing, but LeBron added an animated show called The LeBrons, and they have a lion character. So I was like, his family can be lions, the girls can be lions.
DS: So yeah, I was going to ask, is it tough to decide which genes get passed down to Bronny [James]? Like, he seems to be a giraffe—
MR: There’s a rule in the world. The father and the son are the same. And the mother and daughter are the same.
DS: I see.
MR: The animated world actually has a lot of rules. There are animals, and there are animal people. There are no people. This isn’t a BoJack Horseman.
DS: I see. Okay. Any other favorite animal choices?
MR: Just let everyone know that Kevin Durantelope is coming.
DS: Okay. Looking forward to that. What about Nikola Jokic?
MR: Where’s Jokic from? Serbia?
DS: Yeah, from Serbia.
MR: Maybe like a reindeer. A little chubby reindeer or something like that. It’s hard to pick because you have to pick carefully. So I’m not trying to be racist—they’re animals. It doesn’t really matter. Everyone’s an animal.
DS: They’re very detailed and impressive drawings. What is your background as an animator? Do you frequently draw wildlife, furry mammals?
MR: Well, I’m trained in [the animation software] Toon Boom Harmony, but really I’m producing. I have a partner who does the art with me on this one. He’s just a guy that I hired—he’s my friend, and I come up with the ideas and the concepts and send sketches, and he cleans it up.
DS: What was your approach going into the project? Mirror their social media posts as closely as possible?
MR: Yeah. Whatever you see as the thumbnail. If it’s a video, I screenshot the thumbnail. If it’s the post, I just copy the first one in the post. There’s not really inspiration, I’m just [a] bored guy who works at home and runs a company with a little extra time and money, and, whatever, have some fun.
DS: When you’re working on a post like a 9/11 remembrance, does the approach change or is it roughly the same?
MR: Nothing changes. Because it’s parody, right? The world exists the same—in the animal world, or our real world—it’s the same. So it’s just parody. I just copy it exactly how it is, because the joke isn’t Make fun of 9/11. The joke is 9/11 in animal world, right? So animals still deal with this. If it was an episode of a show or something, they would still deal with the tragedy the same way.
DS: Right. How do you imagine that would be depicted in the animal world?
MR: I mean first off, I would never do that. If I was going to do an episode or something, I wouldn’t cover that topic. But it would probably be a little bit of a fantastic, you know, fantasy version of 9/11. You know, people screaming and running around, chickens with their heads cut off, you know, like cartoon stuff. But it’s the same tragedy. They’re all still sad. But the reactions are a little Looney Tunes. But it’s just too deep of a topic to really touch, if you know what I’m saying.
DS: Yeah, I think that makes sense.
MR: I walk a thin line. I do respect everyone and everything. But I also like to have fun.
DS: Yeah, for sure, that’s what it seems like. What has been the toughest aspect of the project?
MR: There’s nothing tough about this. I’m having fun, man. I guess the toughest aspect is we try to do it fast. When LeBron posts, we want our post out within 24 hours. That’s really probably what I’d say is the toughest thing. But that’s not hard because we’re two people and we’re talented. That sounds a little cocky, but, you know, we work quick.