Moments after Novak Djokovic received the U.S. Open males’s singles ultimate on Sunday evening, he pulled a T-shirt out his bag and put it on.
The shirt mentioned “Mamba Perpetually” and had a picture of Djokovic along with Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star who died in a helicopter crash in 2020 with one among his daughters and 7 others.
Throughout the again, the shirt additionally had a No. 24, which Bryant used for 10 seasons with the Lakers (he additionally used No. 8 for 10 seasons).
Djokovic said in an interview on the court through the trophy ceremony that the thought for the tribute got here as he realized his twenty fourth Grand Slam singles title was inside attain, giving him an opportunity to attach with a significant quantity from Bryant’s profession.
“I assumed 24 is the jersey that he wore when he turned a legend of Lakers and world basketball,” Djokovic mentioned. “So I assumed it will be a pleasant symbolic factor to acknowledge him.”
Djokovic added that he had a detailed relationship with Bryant and infrequently sought the basketball star’s recommendation, particularly as he tried to get better from accidents.
Many athletes have praised Bryant over time for his relentless drive, nicknamed the Mamba Mentality, which he confirmed repeatedly as he pursued N.B.A. championships (he received 5) and tried to point out himself to be one of the best participant on the court docket.
“We chatted rather a lot in regards to the winner’s mentality,” Djokovic mentioned. “He was one of many those who I relied on essentially the most. He was all the time there for any type of counsel, recommendation, any type of assist in a most pleasant method.”
Djokovic’s shirt isn’t the primary ode to Bryant from a U.S. Open winner. When Naomi Osaka received the event in 2020, defeating Victoria Azarenka, she returned to the court docket after her match to pose for an image together with her trophy carrying a No. 8 Bryant jersey.
“I wore this jersey every single day after my matches,” Osaka mentioned on Instagram. “I actually suppose it gave me power. All the time.”