Novak Djokovic won his 24th Grand Slam by defeating Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in the US Open final Sunday. The victory moved him past Serena Williams and tied him with Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam titles of all time.
Beyond making tennis history, the 24th Grand Slam held special meaning for Djokovic. The total matched the uniform number of his close friend Kobe Bryant, who donned No. 24 for 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Djokovic changed into a custom shirt with an image of himself and Bryant with the phrase “Mamba Forever” on the front and No. 24 on the back. He also had custom jackets with No. 24 on the front pocket.
– ESPN (@espn) September 11, 2023
“Kobe was [a] close friend,” Djokovic said. “We chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality. When I was struggling with the injury and trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game, he was one of the people that I rely on the most. He was always there for any kind of counsel advice, any kind of support in the most friendly way. So, of course what happened a few years ago and him and his daughter passing, hurt me deeply.”
After Bryant’s death in 2020, Djokovic shared that the two had developed a personal relationship that spanned over 10 years. Djokovic called Bryant a mentor and “one of the greatest athletes of all time.”