What would it look like if one of California’s most iconic brands partnered with a beloved sports franchise? That’s exactly what Eric Bui wanted to figure out.
The illustrator, designer and full-time engineer is a California native and a longtime Los Angeles Clippers fan.
Over the past year-plus, he’s dedicated a large chunk of his time creating fun, silly and referential basketball doodles on Reddit to entertain and lift up the spirits of his fellow fans who have spent their lives rooting for a team that has failed to reach the proverbial mountaintop, often leaving fans with a bad taste in their mouths.
Last season, one of the strangest in recent memory, left Bui and many other Clippers fans feeling a bit “off.”
“If you’re following the Clippers at all, you would know that the season was like pretty tumultuous,” Bui said. “That’s probably one of the weirdest seasons for fans to kind of experience and to watch.”
Kawhi Leonard was bouncing back from injury and his play time was seemingly unpredictable. Paul George suffered a serious knee injury that knocked him out for the end of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs. The team acquired Russell Westbrook following his bitter exit from the crosstown rival Los Angeles Lakers. The team made multiple big moves on the day of the NBA’s trade deadline.
Needless to say, the season was strange.
Noticing that the vibes among the team and fans online weren’t as positive as they could’ve been, Bui took on the task of bringing some joy to Clippers fans — one doodle at a time.
“To kind of just make things fun, I started just doodling ,” Bui said. “It’s ‘Janky Drawing,’ that was like the tagline, and people liked it. And then I enjoyed drawing them and then I started drawing one for every game.”
It started with a drawing of veteran Clippers glue-guy Nico Batum and evolved from there. Bui would look at the schedule and try to incorporate some themes from each Clippers opponent. If the Clippers were playing the Minnesota Timberwolves, there would be references to wolves or other distinctly Minnesota things.
A Sacramento Kings doodle incorporates that team’s purple beam that illuminates from the stadium after each Kings win.
A doodle made ahead of the Clippers matchup with the the Lakers depicts a video game-style fighting game in Bui’s signature style.
He says the doodles were well-received and, for many Clippers fans, were something consistent to look forward to in an otherwise unpredictable season.
He continued to draw, creating new doodles for almost every regular season game, even setting aside time to create while out of the country.
Bui even received acknowledgment from Paul George himself in his podcast, Podcast P with Paul George. He made a doodle of the three hosts, posted the image on social media and tagged the hosts, not expecting much to come from it.
“They shouted me out on the podcast pretty early in the episode and I thought that was cool,” Bui said. He later sent the hosts a large poster of another of his doodles.
Last month, Bui created something atypical of his usual artwork: a jersey mockup.
Drawing inspiration from California’s most beloved fast food brand, In-N-Out, Bui created a unique Clippers mockup that incorporated the company’s iconic imagery.
“The jersey itself is evidently modeled after their drink cup,” Bui said, describing the jersey design and how he merged the two brands into something new and different. “That image is very iconic, at least for Californians and I wanted to incorporate that by making the jerseys kind of in that style.”
He took the In-N-Out logo’s recognizable arrow, flipped it upside down, and used it to create the letter A in L.A.
The jersey uses In-N-Out’s red, white and yellow color scheme, different from the Clippers official color scheme which uses blue in place of yellow. The NBA allows each team to design a “City Edition” jersey that have a tendency to stray away from the colors and designs teams deploy in their regular home and away jerseys.
He posted the jersey design on social media with the tongue-in-cheek caption: clippers city edition: animal style. For those that don’t know, Animal Style refers to In-N-Out’s not-so-secret menu modification option.
The design is silly, on par with much of his other work, but was something Bui had been thinking about making for a while.
But what do basketball and the fast food chain have in common besides double-doubles?
“What represents California more than In-N-Out?” he said with a laugh. “Mostly everyone that grows up in California loves In-N-Out.”
The jersey design was meant to be a fun twist and an exercise in Bui’s creativity.
While some of the reception was mixed — he said some people called them ugly — the response was generally positive. They even got the attention of a former Clippers star who was interested in collaborating with him on a project, maybe even make the In-N-Out jerseys a reality — if there aren’t a ton of legal hoops to jump through.
He hasn’t received any feedback from the Clippers organization, but says it would be a dream come true to work with them in the future.
In the meantime, Bui is just happy to keep creating stuff for others and challenging himself to grow as an artist. He encourages others to chase their passions, too.
“I feel art from anybody just can help. Just create something to make people feel better. That’s kind of what drives me and I would hope that something like this inspires other people to do the same in whatever they’re interested in and not just like sports or Clippers or anything,” he said.
A fan of the Clippers, the San Jose Sharks, the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Chargers, Bui needs a lot of fun art and good vibes to get him through his sports fandom.
To see more of Eric Bui’s artwork, you can follow him on Instagram.