Novak Djokovic’s touching speech and tribute to Kobe Bryant after record-tying 24th Grand Slam title

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read

Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic paid tribute to Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on Sunday after he won his record 24th Grand Slam.

Djokovic took home the US Open title with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 win over Daniil Medvedev, his fourth US Open trophy. With the win, he tied Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam wins.

After the win, Djokovic put on a special shirt, featuring himself and Bryant that read “Mamba Forever.” Bryant wore the No. 24 for the Lakers during his storied NBA career.

Bryant and Djokovic were close friends, so it’s clear that winning this Grand Slam meant a little more to one of tennis’ brightest stars.

“I thought about doing this t-shirt a few days ago,” Djokovic explained. “I didn’t share it with anybody. Kobe was a close friend of mine, we chatted a lot, about the winner’s mentality.

“When I was struggling with an injury and working my way back. He was one of the people I relied on the most.

“Any counsel, advice…in a friendly way. What happened, his passing, it hurt me deeply. I thought 24, the jersey he wore to become a Lakers legend. It could be a nice symbolic thing to do for him.

“He’s done, not just on the basketball court, his resilience, fighting spirit, it lives on forever, I felt it today.”

Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter accident in January of 2020, but his impact on other athletes has not gone away since his passing.

Djokovic, who is arguably the greatest tennis player in the world, pulled a lot of inspiration from Bryant, and now he has reached the pinnacle of his sport.

Bryant was the ultimate professional, winning five titles during his NBA career and amassing a ton of accolades in the process.

During his playing career, Bryant was named to 18 All-Star teams and won two scoring titles. He won the NBA Finals MVP award two times and played every game of his career with the Lakers.

Bryant showed a relentless fire during his career up until his last game when he scored 60 points in a Lakers win over the Utah Jazz. For his career, Kobe Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Djokovic has had an amazing tennis career, as he’s been ranked world No. 1 for a record total of 389 weeks in a record 12 different years. It’s possible that he will once again be ranked No. 1 in the world after winning the US Open on Sunday.

It’s heartwarming to see Djokovic honor his close friend in such a fashion, and it’s another sign that Bryant’s legacy will continue to live on through the countless people he touched during his life.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.