MANILA, Philippines – Tennis great Novak Djokovic teared up on Tuesday, January 28, as he paid tribute to late basketball star Kobe Bryant, describing him as a “mentor” and a “friend” for the past 10 years.
Djokovic, speaking after his Australian Open quarterfinal win against Milos Raonic, said it was “heartbreaking” to hear about Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter and 7 others.
“He was one of the greatest athletes of all time. He inspired myself and many other people around the world,” the Serbian said of the Los Angeles Lakers icon in an on-court interview at the Rod Laver Arena.
“I had the fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the past 10 years. When I needed some advice and some support, he was there for me,” added Djokovic, who wore a tracksuit with the initials KB.
“He was my mentor, my friend, and it’s just heartbreaking to see and to hear what has happened to him and his daughter,” Djokovic said before breaking off to compose himself.
Djokovic and many other legends of tennis, including Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, have voiced their grief over the death of Bryant, regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history.
On Monday, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios arrived for his quarterfinal wearing a Lakers jersey, and American doubles pair Coco Gauff and Caty McNally had tributes to Bryant scrawled on their trainers. – Rappler.com