Mikey Halim can’t dunk, isn’t on any recruiting lists, and has zero YouTube highlights to his name. But of all the high-school kids in the Puget Sound area, he might have the brightest NBA future.
That might sound like a bold, if not ridiculous statement given some of the talent in this area. Except that Halim’s gift doesn’t involve a ball and a hoop, but rather a computer and an imagination.
Having long been into graphic design, the 17-year-old Redmond resident discovered a distinct talent a few years back. He found that his spin on NBA jerseys impressed not just his friends, but hundreds of thousands of people on Instagram, Reddit and countless other corners of the internet.
Now, he has more than 100,000 followers on the Gram under the name SRELIX, and has had his work praised by ESPN, NBC Sports — even actor Ryan Reynolds.
“I did not think that I would blow up like this,” Halim said.
But he has. And here’s how it all started.
In 2017 Halim got his hands on a basketball-uniform design template with which he could mock up jerseys in a 3D format. His first concept was an interpretation of a Sonics uniform.
He wasn’t trying to impress anybody when he designed it. But when he put it on the web, it got 5,000 upvotes on Reddit and became his first post to earn 1,000 likes on Instagram.
Was he on to something? Absolutely.
A couple weeks later, Halim decided he was going to fuse NFL jerseys with NBA jerseys. So the Seahawks and various other teams got logos slapped on basketball uniforms via Mikey’s laptop, and the Instagram love continued.
But his big breakthrough came in 2018, when he re-imagined the uniforms for all 30 NBA teams — giving each a retro look that took his Instagram following from 10K to 35K in just a few weeks.
Sports news outlets such as The Score and SB Nation started writing stories about Halim. Hotnewhiphop.com gave him some ink as well. Images once considered a side hobby were now seen as true artwork by tens of thousands of fans across the country.
“I was just like, ‘Wow, this is something people actually enjoy,’ ” said Halim, who also designed a Gucci-Kobe Bryant jersey mashup.
But it wasn’t until March of this year that the heavy hitters began noticing his work. Relatively dormant on the jersey-design front for a couple of years, Halim, like much of America, found himself with gobs of free time as COVID-19 shut down the country.
Then an idea came.
What if I mash up NBA jerseys with comic-book characters?
And that’s when it seemed as though a true star was born. He gave the Denver Nuggets a Joker theme. He gave the Blazers an Ant-Man theme. He paired the Magic with Dr. Strange, the Clippers with Spiderman and the Warriors with Wolverine. A-lister Reynolds was so impressed with Halim’s Bulls-Deadpool design that he put it on his Instagram story.
ESPN shared some of the designs on Twitter. NBC Sports and Yahoo! Sports each gave him a write-up. NBA teams started sharing his designs as an IG account that had under 40k in March but ballooned to over 100K.
Halim said his work has inspired others to mock up jerseys. But it doesn’t look as though anyone’s work has captured as much attention as his.
As for monetization? Well, he’s working on that.
Currently, Halim has a gig creating designs for X League, a professional women’s football league. If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, it was formerly known as the Lingerie Football League. So why is leadership calling on a 17-year-old?
“They needed more uniform designs because they wanted to be less skimpy and more family-friendly,” Halim said.
A senior at Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Halim isn’t sure where he will be attending college. He does know that he wants to study computer science as opposed to graphic design. The reason, he feels, is that what he’s got can’t really be taught. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have big design dreams down the road.
The ultimate goal, Halim said, is to collaborate with either a big-name rapper or the NBA directly. He has been thrilled with what he has been able to achieve but admits he’ll always be hungry for more. Oh, and in case you’re wondering why he goes by SRELIX on Instagram, here’s the story.
When Halim got an Xbox 360 a few years back, it gave him the randomly generated username STAIDRELIC35. For three years he used that as his Instagram handle as well. But wanting to be taken more seriously on Instagram, he decided to shorten it. First he got rid of the 35 and was simply STAIDRELIC. Then he removed the TAID and was simply SRELIC.
“Then I threw an X on it, because anything with an X sounds a lot cooler.”
Indeed it does. But given what Halim has accomplished at 17, he’d be pretty cool either way.