After playing the villain for so long, Novak Djokovic finally earned the US Open crowd’s approval and applause as he brought out a Kobe Bryant jersey to celebrate his 24th Grand Slam title. The touching gesture came out from left field as Novak received criticism just a few days before as he seemingly mocked Ben Shelton’s telephone celebration. However, Ben Shelton disregarded any malice intention as he claimed: “As a kid growing up, I always learned that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so that’s all I have to say about that.” Thus, what brought upon this touching tribute with a Kobe Bryant jersey? Learn more below.
Novak Djokovic Pays Tribute to Mentor with Kobe Bryant Jersey “Mamba Forever”
After the exhilarating and exhausting straight-sets win over Daniil Medvedev, Novak Djokovic stuns and elates the US Open crowd with a Kobe Bryant Jersey ‘Mamba Forever’. For example, the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd stood up and applauded Djokovic when he revealed the Kobe Bryant Jersey and put it on, showing a photo of the pair on the front and a number 24 on the back.
In his trophy speech, Djokovic revealed that he had this Kobe Bryant jersey idea in mind just a week ago. “It was about seven days ago when I thought of doing this t-shirt eventually if I win the tournament. I did not share it with anyone until a few days ago when I asked my people to help me make this Kobe Bryant jersey.”
When asked about the close bond the two shared, Djokovic revealed that Kobe was a mentor he relied on during his down period. “Kobe was a close friend. We chatted a lot about the winners’ mentality. When I was struggling with an injury, trying to make my comeback and working 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 counsel, advice and support in the most friendly way.”
Lastly, Djokovic opened up on the unfortunate passing of his mentor and daughter. “Of course. What happened a few years ago, his and his daughter’s passing hurt me deeply. I thought 24 was the jersey he wore when he became a legend of the Lakers and World Basketball, so I thought it could be a nice, symbolic thing to acknowledge. His resilience, willpower, fighting spirit, and never-give-up spirit. It lives on forever and still lives here, and I felt his presence today.”
Novak shares the idea behind his tribute to Kobe 🗣 pic.twitter.com/aFd7xStqVx
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 11, 2023
Novak Djokovic Seals Status as Most Decorated Tennis Player Ever
While it may be quite a presumption, the Kobe Bryant Jersey in Djokovic’s bag may have given him the strength and spirit to bulldoze his way to a straight-sets victory. Despite the straight-set score line of 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, the match was on a knife edge, especially in the second set, which lasted an hour and 44 minutes.
For example, the 36-year-old Serb looked physically troubled in that gruelling second set as he held a long game for 4-4 and survived Medvedev’s first break point of the match to hold serve. However, after channelling and demonstrating the willpower and resilience of his mentor, Djokovic took the second set in a tie-break before serving out the match in straight sets and claiming a record-tying 24 Grand Slam.
Thus, Djokovic now ties Margaret Court with the most Grand Slam of a single player with 24. Furthermore, the Serbian became the oldest men’s champion in New York in the Open era and is the first male to win three Grand Slam events in the same season four times. In addition, Novak also has 39 Master 1000 titles and six ATP Finals to his name. While people may still argue his status as the GOAT, it is undeniable that he is the most decorated player in tennis history. Thus, wear the Kobe Bryant jersey proudly. You deserved it, Champ.
HE’S DONE IT! Novak Djokovic wins his fourth US Open Tennis Championships and 24th major title, defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3. pic.twitter.com/Dw1R5PQYtl
— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) September 10, 2023
What Is Next for Novak Djokovic?
While it seems that Novak Djokovic has nothing more to achieve after his US Open triumph, he shows no signs of stopping, as Medvedev bemoaned jokingly in his runner-up speech. “What are you still doing here? I don’t know when you are planning to slow down.” In all seriousness, Djokovic still has titles to add to his legendary career.
For example, he can start with the season-ending ATP Finals, where he will try to break free from the 6 joint titles record with Federer and attempt to win a record 7th title. Moreover, as mentioned in our Alcaraz article, Djokovic can now try and win The Triple Career Golden Masters and break the record for most grand slams owned by a tennis player next year.
Lastly, while we can expect Djokovic to win more titles, we cannot expect what celebrations he will come up next. For example, Djokovic imitated Ben Shelton’s telephone celebration and brought out a tributing Kobe Bryant jersey in this US Open. Thus, what ceremonies can we expect from him in the future? Let us know on our site here.
Novak Djokovic arriving on court at every Grand Slam final in 2023 👋 pic.twitter.com/xDbFtO7Ojv
— Eurosport (@eurosport) September 10, 2023