Novak Djokovic paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after winning a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title at the US Open.
The Serbian defeated Daniil Medvedev in straight sets (6-3, 7-6, 6-3) to level Margaret Court’s 50-year record.
And immediately after the victory, Djokovic revealed a t-shirt in tribute to the legendary basketball player, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020.
“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.”
Djokovic also explained the feeling of winning his 24th grand slam at Flushing Meadows.
“I don’t know where to start, it means the world to me [to win 24 titles], I’m living my childhood dream,” Djokovic added.
“To compete at the highest level in the sport that gave me so much after so much adversity, growing up in the 90s, a couple of wars. It was very expensive, not affordable.
“It was quite a choice, incredible resilience, belief, all these years. My wife, my kids, my team, this is your trophy as much as mine. I love you.
“To make history in this sport is remarkable. It’s special. In every meaning. It’s hard to describe. I had a childhood dream at eight to win Wimbledon and be the best player in the world.
“New goals… I never imagined I’d be here talking about 24 slams. I didn’t know it would be the reality. But I thought I had a chance over the last few years, why not grab it?”