"Mamba forever" - Novak Djokovic pays tribute to late Kobe Bryant with special '24' jersey after record-breaking 24th Grand Slam title at US Open 2023

Novak Djokovic (L) and Kobe Bryant (R)
Novak Djokovic (L) and Kobe Bryant (R)

Novak Djokovic created history at the 2023 US Open, beating Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win his 24th Grand Slam title. With the 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 win, the World No. 2 became the player with the most Major titles in the Open Era, overtaking Serena Williams' total of 23.

In tennis history overall, only Margaret Court has won as many Grand Slams as the Serb, with Court also winning 24 before the end of ther career. Djokovic has ended the season winning three out of the four Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open and US Open), and finished as the runner-up at the only other Slam he did not win (lost to Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon).

Moments after the victory, the soon-to-be World No. 1 broke out a special '24' shirt in honor of the late Kobe Bryant, who wore the No. 24 jersey in the late stages of his NBA career. Bryant himself asserted that the new #24 jersey was a sign of self-improvement from his earlier days, when he wore No. 8.

"Then 24 is a growth from [No. 8]," Bryant said. "Physical attributes aren't there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest. Things evolve."

His friend Kevin Garnett, however, revealed later on that there was another reason why Bryant chose to wear #24.

"People don't even know [what] the 24 stands for," Garnett said. "People don't even understand that that was a sign to everybody that he was a step above 23 [Michael Jordan's jersey number], if y'all even got that."
"That's why he went 24, that was a shot at Mike, straight up, like, I'm better than you. It really stood on it. And if you look at every goal or every record that Mike Jordan has had, Kobe chased it."

Symbolizing that 'Mamba' mentality that many in the tennis world associate with himself, Novak Djokovic's customized blue and yellow t-shirt contained the words "Mamba forever" in the front, with a picture of him and Bryant placed between them.

On the back of the t-shirt, there was a large '24' printed in purple, with the 36-year-old pointing to it in celebration after his historic triumph.

Novak Djokovic to become World No. 1 starting next week

Novak Djokovic Press Conference At Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Novak Djokovic Press Conference At Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Novak Djokovic will officially become the new World No. 1 on Monday, a position he was assured of even before the final. In fact, the Serb had the spot for himself as soon as he won his first-round match at Flushing Meadows last week.

The Serb now has 11,795 ranking points to his name, putting him more than 3,000 points ahead of World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz (8,535 points). The Spaniard was the defending champion at the 2023 US Open and fell in the semifinals to Daniil Medvedev.

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Edited by Shyam Kamal
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