Novak Djokovic entered the record books on Sunday (September 11) after beating Daniil Medvedev in the US Open 2023 final. The Serbian legend claimed the record-levelling 24th Grand Slam title in the singles and then paid tribute to the legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant, who donned the no.24 jersey for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Djokovic continues to set new standards in the tennis world with three majors and one runner-up trophy (Wimbledon) in 2023. Djokovic held a close relationship with the five-time NBA champion and remembered him during his speech after winning the fourth US Open title. Djokovic revealed a 'Mamba Forever' t-shirt, a jersey famously created to pay tribute to Kobe, and said that the Basketball legend supported him during his injury phase and helped him reach back to the top of his game.
“I thought of doing this t-shirt eventually, if I get the chance to win the tournament, about seven days ago,” Djokovic said during the trophy presentation. “I didn’t share it with anyone until a few days ago when I asked my people to help me out to make this shirt. Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality. When I was struggling with injury and trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game, he was one of the people I relied on the most. He was always there for any kind of council, advice, any kind of support in the most friendly way.”
Djokovic also revealed his feelings when he learned about Kobe and his daughter's death in a helicopter crash in 2020.
“Of course, what happened a few years ago with him and his daughter passing, hurt me deeply. I thought, 24 is the jersey that he wore when he became a legend of the Lakers and of world basketball. I thought it could be a nice, symbolic thing to acknowledge him for all the things he’s done,” Djokovic added.