Imagine taking the basketball world by storm — without playing in the NBA. Maxim Peranidze is doing exactly that, garnering national adulation for his basketball-comedic prowess, spot-on impersonations, and scintillating clothing brand. Also, if Maxim Peranidze doesn’t ring a bell, his Instagram handle, @maxisnicee, should sound more familiar.
He was born minutes away from All-Star guard Luka Doncic in Moldova and lived there for 12 years before moving to his current home in Los Angeles. In case you can’t tell by his videos, Max is enamored with the game of basketball. He lauds his father — who played professionally in Europe — for teaching him to play the sport and bringing him and his brother to all his practices.
“My dad played professionally in Europe and that’s how I initially experienced the game,” Max explained to Sideline Sources’ Wenzell Ortiz. “My twin brother and I were always around the basketball scene; our dad would introduce us to his teammates and ingratiate us into the hoops culture.”
Unbeknownst to most, Max is a legitimate hooper. He played Junior College basketball in Los Angeles and firmly believed he had what it takes to compete at the Division I level. However, a fortuitous leg injury and an aversion to the scholastic experience precluded the world from watching him in March Madness.
“The only reason I stopped playing basketball at that level was that I blew my knee out during my first year of Junior College, and then tore my MCL in my sophomore season,” Max lamented. “After the second injury, I was sidelined for about four months; it was during my break from basketball that I decided to make the videos, and they instantly went viral. There was no reason for me to return to school since my content was blowing up.
I didn’t go Division I from the start because I didn’t like school — I rarely attended class and it simply wasn’t for me. I could’ve been hooping with Coach K and Zion, though!?”
Max’s injury during his second year of college is his basketball impressionist origin story. Unbelievably, he tore his MCL while waiting to check into a game. The now 23-year-old was kneeling at the scorer’s table, awaiting a pause in the action, when his teammate — a big man, mind you — tripped and crushed his leg. However, instead of being crestfallen because he was forced to step away from the sport he loves, he remained sanguine. Max never disconnected from basketball, which ultimately led to creating his first viral video — the LaMelo Ball impersonation.
“We were at a showcase and my coach had told me to check into the game. I was kneeling and next to me was my center — I can’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget his face. Coach had called my teammate back and, like any hooper being called back to the bench, he was angry. Somehow, he tripped and fell on my leg; all I remember is hearing a pop! As I’m limping back to the bench my teammates are calling me a clown, because they know I’m a jokester. I end up collapsing in pain and after I tell the team what had happened, they all burst into laughter — even my coach was dying. To be honest, I started laughing too!
I was out for about three to four months, and I wasn’t going to shift my focus to school. LaMelo’s game is something I know a lot about, so I decided to post a video impersonating him. I didn’t expect much of it but it ended up going viral instantly; every major sports page was reposting it; my followers and DMs were blowing up and even LaMelo shouted me out.?
Max acknowledges how serendipitous his injury turned out to be, realizing that it expedited his career in a surreal fashion. Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember the name of his flat-footed center, but he assures me that there is no ill will and, in an odd way, that he thanks him for tearing his MCL.
Below, Max talks about his rise to fame, the process of making his videos, the “I’m Nicee” movement, advice he would give to aspiring sports-social media influencers, and more!
Q&A With Maxisnicee
Answers and questions have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: When was the moment that you realized that you could do this for a career?
Max: I don’t think I can pin any one moment down and say that’s when I made it. When you start blowing up, it all happens so fast, and you get this urge, like it’s time to lock in. People began liking my videos, numbers continued to skyrocket, and it started to look like a sustainable lifestyle. I remember Brandon Armstrong (@bodtadot5) and Carlos Sanford (@famouslos32) telling me that ‘I’m nice’ at this; they gave me the cheat codes to the business and taught me how to build my brand. So, I guess it was a culmination of things.
You’ve forged relationships, as well as rubbed elbows with a myriad of celebrities and athletes. Do you have a favorite interaction?
Max: The day I met LeBron definitely stands out. I don’t do the whole starstruck thing, so I wasn’t nervous. But, I remember meeting him and going, ‘that’s the GOAT right there.’
There was another time when LeBron wore my merch and posted it to his social media. I’m not going to lie; I was in disbelief because the GOAT was really rocking my clothing brand. The merch was initially supposed to be all for Bronny, but I was smart enough to include a couple of extra larges for pops! I almost cried when I saw LeBron post to his Instagram story a picture of him in my clothes; I hate to be corny, but I framed the picture.
Give me a full breakdown of how you go about filming one of your videos.
Max: Generally, it doesn’t take me very long to get a player’s tendencies down pact. I’m a fan of the NBA, so most of these guys I’ve already watched night in and night out. For example, I’m an LA guy; therefore, guys like Lonzo and LeBron come naturally, having watched them consistently. When it comes to players that I don’t get a chance to watch, I’ll put on some of their games and be laser-focused on only them. It doesn’t matter if they’re sitting on the bench or walking to the scorer’s table; my eyes are locked on them.
Who is the hardest player you have made an impression of?
Max: Dwyane Wade was really tough. He has a lot of tools in his bag — everything from his spin moves to his dunks. I remember being exhausted from making the video because I was also trying to make every shot while filming. Wade blocked a shot and proceeded to hit a half-court shot; it took me about 20 takes to get that. I love D-Wade, but I hate him.
Has there ever been a player that didn’t take a liking to your impression of them?
Max: Only one time. Bdot and I were doing a Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving video, and I was playing Kyrie. I was burning a sage — not a real sage, just a piece of paper — like he does before games and acted as if it was going to burn the gym down, in a funny way. Kyrie commented on the post, saying that I was ignorant and disrespecting his culture, which of course, was never my intention. Everyone knows that what I do, as well as Bdot and Famouslos, is all jokes and that we’re never trying to cause any harm.
Kyrie is one of the nicest people to ever touch the rock; I’m always tweeting about how he’s different. I hope now Kyrie knows I never meant to disrespect him or his culture and that it’s all love.
Let’s talk about your merchandise and slogan. Give me the story behind ‘I’m Nicee’ and why you ultimately decided to start your own clothing brand.
Max: My Instagram handle, “Maxisnicee,” is what kids used to call me on the court because I was always crossing someone up or making a nice play. When my videos started blowing up, it hit me: every hooper in the world wants to be nice! It’s a hoop term that every basketball player can relate to, so I decided to put ‘I’m Nicee’ and ‘Are You Nicee?’ on clothes. I can see every hooper wearing this.
A slew of athletes rock your merchandise. How does that exchange typically transpire? Do they ask you or vice versa?
Max: I usually DM them and end up sending them some merch. For example, I hit up Lonzo, and he sent me his address. Sometimes they’ll contact me saying, ‘I need a shirt, Brodie.’ Then, they’ll send me their info for me to hook them up.
I always have merch in my car, though. So, if I ever run into any NBA players, I’m ready to throw a shirt or hoodie at them.
What is the goal for your brand?
Max: I’ll always want my brand to be big in the hoop culture because that’s ultimately what it was built for. It’s also important to me that it continues to inspire athletes. I’ll never forget when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — my boy — told me that my merch motivated him and helped him get out of a shooting slump. He was wearing the ‘Are You Nicee?’ hoodie and walked by a mirror, stopped, and said to himself, ‘bro, are you nice?’ Later that day, he had a game and proceeded to light it up from the outside. Hearing stories like that reminds me that my clothing brand means something to people. I hope it continues to inspire and bring the best out of all the hoopers out there.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Max: I honestly like to live in the present, work hard every day and see where life takes me. Of course, in five years, I want to be the richest man on the planet and live in a mansion. But for now, I’m going to humble myself. My content will stay consistent, and we’ll see what the results hold.
What advice would you give to someone that is aspiring to be a sports social media influencer, such as yourself?
Max: Always stay consistent and stay in one lane. If you’re going to post about basketball, then stick to basketball. Don’t confuse your followers with too many genres or topics, especially in the early stages of your career. You have to ask yourself, ‘why should I have a million followers.’ People follow me for my comedic basketball videos, and I embrace that. Learn what kind of creator you want to be, and you’ll be on your way. Also, try to keep your content PG because the rated-R stuff will be taken down.
Max’s career may only span a couple of years, but he’s already etched his name in sports comedy lore. From LeBron James to LaMelo Ball, there isn’t a player he can’t impersonate — let alone get to rock his merchandise. Now, Max is pursuing a return to college basketball, hoping to one day fulfill his dream of playing in March Madness.