Novak Djokovic made tennis history by defeating Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s US Open final, as he earned his 24th Grand Slam title. Reaching that number meant Djokovic tied Margaret Court for the most major singles titles ever, but he also saw it as a perfect opportunity to honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic was close friends with the Bryant, who famously wore No. 24 for the Los Angeles Lakers. In his honor, Djokovic wore a special “Mamba Forever” T-shirt after his victory. He and his box also wore white jackets with the No. 24.
Djokovic confessed he had started thinking of the T-shirt idea last week, but decided not to tell anyone until a few days ago when the trophy seemed within reach.
“Kobe was a close friend. We chatted a lot about the winners mentally when I was struggling with an injury trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game.” Djokovic said. “He was one of the people that I relied on the most. He was there for any kind of counsel, advice, any kind of support in the most friendly way.”
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star, dealt with multiple injuries through his illustrious career. However, he was known for his competitive personality and pushing through every obstacle. Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” of trying to get better everyday continues to inspire millions of people around the world.
“Of course what happened a few years ago, his passing, hurt me deeply,” Djokovic said. “I thought, 24 is the jersey that he wore when he became a legend of the Lakers and in the world of basketball, so I felt it could be a nice symbolic thing to acknowledge him.”