Novak Djokovic, the tennis maestro gave a heartfelt tribute that resonated with fans worldwide. He recently secured his 24th Grand Slam title at the 2023 U.S. Open. What made this victory even more remarkable was Djokovic’s touching gesture.
He wore a custom shirt bearing the words “Mamba Forever” and an image of Kobe Bryant alongside himself after defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final. Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, took to social media to congratulate him. Additionally, she expressed her gratitude for the tribute.
Vanessa Bryant recognising Novak Djokovic’s Kobe tribute after winning his 24th Grand Slam at the US Open on her IG story pic.twitter.com/0EN0N3BMKS
— 🇨🇩🇸🇱 (@8Flavs) September 11, 2023
She shared a snapshot of her TV screen capturing Djokovic proudly displaying his tribute shirt. Vanessa‘s heartfelt message echoed the sentiment shared by many, encapsulating it succinctly with, “Mamba Mentality. Real recognizes real”.
Djokovic’s decision to don the ‘Mamba Forever’ shirt was not a spur-of-the-moment choice. It was a heartfelt homage to his close friend Kobe, who tragically lost his life in a helicopter crash in January 2020. The shirt featured Bryant’s iconic jersey number, 24, which symbolized his legendary status in the world of basketball.
Novak Djokovic wore a shirt with ‘Mamba Forever’ written on it
Djokovic himself spoke about the profound impact Kobe had on his life and career. He revealed that during his injury-riddled journey back to the pinnacle of tennis, the Lakers star was a pillar of support, offering wisdom on maintaining a winner’s mentality.
“Kobe was a close friend,” Djokovic emphasized. He said, “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.”
The number 24 held special significance, as Djokovic explained, “I thought 24 — it is the jersey he wore when he became a legend, of Lakers and world basketball, so I thought it could be a nice, symbolic thing to acknowledge him for all the things he has done”. It was a fitting tribute from one sporting legend to another.
Djokovic’s victory at the U.S. Open was not just about honoring Kobe Bryant’s legacy; it also moved him to tie Margaret Court’s record for the most tournament wins in tennis history. In the Open era, Djokovic now stands tall with the most Grand Slam victories to his name.
Thereby cementing his status as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. As Djokovic stood on the winner’s podium, donning a shirt that bore the memory of the basketball icon, he choked back tears, reflecting on the profound impact Bryant had on his life.