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“He’s the one I trusted the most.” Why Kobe Bryant is so important to Djokovic

Date: June 15, 2024 Time: 17:45:50

In the final of the US Open 2023, Novak Djokovic defeated Daniil Medvedev (6-3, 7-6, 6-3). This is Novak’s 24th Grand Slam victory, a record for men’s tennis. Djokovic is not going to stop. This year, the 36-year-old Serbian won 3 out of 4 possible majors and only an unfortunate defeat in the final five-set battle against Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon did not allow him to collect a calendar “Slam”. So why think about retiring?

Djokovic feels very good physically, despite his advanced age for tennis players. In terms of psychology, he has no equal. Legends can be made about Novak’s winning attitude and strength. Most of his opponents lose to him in the locker room. Djokovic has worked hard to become a mental monster on the court. He took lessons from other great athletes. In particular, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, to whom he dedicated his victory at the US Open.

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Bryant helped Djokovic become a mental monster

Immediately after the match, Novak appeared before the crowd wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “Mamba Forever” on the chest, complemented by a joint photo of the tennis player with Bryant. On his back was the number 24. Mamba is Kobe’s nickname, 24 is one of the basketball player’s iconic numbers, as well as the number of Grand Slams won by the Serbian after defeating Medvedev.

Novak Djokovic wears a t-shirt in memory of Kobe Bryant

Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Bryant began his career wearing the number 8, but in 2006, already a three-time NBA champion, he multiplied it by three. He soon won two more titles (2009 and 2010), became the MVP of the season (2008) and the final series (2009 and 2010). Kevin Garnett, a Boston Celtics legend and Kobe’s friend and rival, claims that the number 24 has a hidden meaning.

“Many people don’t even know what the number 24 means. This was a signal to everyone that Kobe was one step above 23. That’s why he took the number 24. This was a knock on Michael Jordan. He openly said: “I am better than you.” He tried to surpass any achievement, any record that Michael Jordan had,” Garnett said.

However, Bryant himself gave a more realistic explanation for the choice of this figure.

“The number 24 became my height. Although the physical condition was no longer the same, the maturity was greater. Family, children, the look of one of the most experienced players on the team in front of the youth. “Everything is evolving,” Kobe said.

Bryant was obsessed with self-improvement and greatness, so Garnett’s version was completely viable, even if Kobe couldn’t openly acknowledge it. But back to the US Open and Novak Djokovic. It’s hard to imagine a better way to honor Bryant, who tragically died along with his daughter Gianna in a plane crash in 2020. Novak could have won his 24th Slam at Wimbledon, but fate decreed that this would happen in the United States, the homeland from Kobe.

“A week ago I thought I would wear this shirt if I had the chance to win the tournament. I didn’t share this with anyone until the last few days, when I asked my people to help me make a t-shirt. Kobe was a friend of mine and we talked a lot about being a champion. When I had injuries and was trying to get back to the top, he was one of the people I trusted the most. He was always willing to help with advice and support in a friendly manner. His death hurt me a lot. 24 is the number Kobe wore when he became a legend of the Los Angeles Lakers and basketball in general. Therefore, I decided that in this way we can honor his memory and I can emphasize how important he was to me as a person,” Djokovic explained his decision.

Number 24 on Novak Djokovic’s shirt

Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Novak deserves all the credit for coming up with this idea. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, after the US Open final, posted a photo of Djokovic wearing this shirt on social media: she congratulated the tennis player and wrote “Mamba Forever” – note from the “Championship” ).

When talking about Kobe Bryant, the term Mamba mentality or Mamba thinking is usually mentioned. It would take a long time to describe its essence, but in short, it is a way of life based on a higher demand towards oneself and a constant desire for perfection. Mamba is the most poisonous snake in the world, that’s exactly the nickname. Kobe had done it. He not only disappointed himself, but also his opponents, he tried to get under their skin and into their heads, to suppress them mentally. Basically, this is what Novak does on the court. And with so much success that Bryant would definitely admire him if he saw his latest achievements.

Djokovic and Bryant have been close friends since the early 2010s. Kobe’s death was a true personal tragedy for Novak. The plane crash with Kobe’s helicopter occurred in January 2020, when Djokovic was playing at the Australian Open. Novak entered the quarterfinal match with Milos Raonic (6-4, 6-3, 7-6) wearing a jacket emblazoned with “KB 8, 24” and a heart, designed specifically in memory of Bryant. After the match, Djokovic could not hold back his tears.

“Kobe has inspired me and many people around the world. We have had a personal relationship for the last ten years. “He was my mentor, my friend,” Novak said.

Novak Djokovic could not hold back his tears when he learned of Kobe Bryant’s death

Photo: Jack Thomas/Getty Images

As a result, Djokovic won the 2020 Australian Open and dedicated the victory to Bryant. The relationship between Novak and Kobe really grew stronger each year and would have developed even more if it hadn’t been for that unfortunate tragedy. Bryant retired in 2016, so he has a lot more free time. And he enjoyed spending some of the time with Djokovic.

“Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the holy trinity of tennis. But Novak is my boy. We have had a close relationship for a long time. Novak has always been my favorite player. I talked to him a lot, especially in recent years when his career was changing due to injury. I know what happened to him because I experienced a similar situation. We mainly talk about the need to forget what happened as soon as possible and focus on the present. I told him that he would no longer be the same player, but that he would become a second version of who he was before. He is better now than ever,” Bryant said as he watched Novak’s matches at the 2019 US Open, the last TBS he was able to attend.

Kobe Bryant and Novak Djokovic

Photo: from Novak Djokovic’s personal archive.

Bryant’s lessons were very valuable. Djokovic regularly uses Bryant quotes. This year alone there were two significant cases.

“Kobe Bryant had a great quote: “Haters are a good problem. Nobody hates the good guys. They hate the big guys.” I don’t hate anyone in my life and I don’t feel those emotions and I don’t raise my children that way. “Hate is a terribly negative emotion, and if someone feels it towards me, it says a lot about that person.” ”Novak said in May of this year, responding to a question about the large number of haters.

“Cheer up? Kobe Bryant’s Mamba mentality. You already know what is going to happen before it really happens. I sincerely believe in this power. The power of a mentality that helps turn thoughts into a real future,” is how Djokovic described his easy victory over Casper Ruud in the 2023 Roland Garros final, which made him the record holder for Slams won.

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It’s not just Bryant who inspires Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is a great athlete and perhaps even the greatest of our time. However, he has no qualms about learning from his colleagues. Not just tennis legends. His closest friend from another sport is American football legend Tom Brady. Kobe once helped Novak become mentally stronger, and Tom, who won a record 7 Super Bowls and just retired in February at the age of 45, provides some great advice on how to maintain longevity.

“He was close to Kobe Bryant, as well as Monica Seles, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Pete Sampras. He often told them about his achievements in sports. And now I talk regularly with Tom Brady about training and recovery. I don’t hesitate to ask questions of someone who has reached the absolute pinnacle of the sport,” says Djokovic.

Tom Brady and Novak Djokovic

Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Brady was present in Novak’s box at the Roland Garros final when the Serbian won his 23rd major and beat Rafael Nadal. At the 2023 US Open, Tom also crossed paths with Novak after the Serbian faced his daring compatriot Ben Shelton in the semi-finals. Brady couldn’t watch the game because he lives in Florida and has three children. I managed to get to New York only for the semi-final between Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz. In the locker room, Tom congratulated Djokovic and wished to continue dealing with all of his opponents. Novak responded by giving his 10-year-old daughter Vivian his personalized cap, with which he later watched the Alcaraz-Medvedev semifinal.

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Novak Djokovic, Tom Brady and 38-year-old Los Angeles Lakers basketball player LeBron James are prime examples of longevity in sports in recent years. Brady has just retired, but thanks to his experience he can help Novak with practical advice. LeBron continues to compete, keeping the Lakers competitive and looking to lead Team USA to gold medals at the Paris Olympics next year. Novak watches him closely and takes note of important details.

“I know I’m not the only one. There are many great champions in different sports who thrive by improving their focus, their play, their performance and their recovery every day. That’s why LeBron James continues to dominate at his age. “Tom Brady is another great person who inspires me,” Djokovic said after winning the US Open.

Djokovic treats other athletes with respect. Hanging out with Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady definitely made him a better player. As a result, Novak takes something from them and creates his own unique legacy. It is unknown when Djokovic will decide to retire and how many Slams he will have at that time. He can already be called the best athlete of our time. It is possible that when he leaves tennis, this characteristic will be applicable to the era “throughout history.”

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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