NEW YORK—“24” proved to carry great emotional significance for Novak Djokovic after winning his 24th major title at the 2023 US Open.

After tying the all-time Grand Slam record previously held by Margaret Court alone, Djokovic debuted a custom t-shirt in tribute to late mentor, friend, and NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, with “Mamba Forever” emblazoned across the chest.


“I thought of doing this t-shirt eventually, if I get the chance to win the tournament, about seven days ago,” he said during the trophy ceremony on Sunday. “I didn’t share it with anyone until a few days ago when I asked my people to help me out to make this shirt. Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality. When I was struggling with injury and trying to make my comeback, work 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 kind of council, advice, any kind of support in the most friendly way.”

Since Bryant passed away following a helicopter crash in 2020, Djokovic has done much to pay tribute to Bryant, citing a “Mamba mentality” after winning Roland Garros earlier this spring.

“Of course, what happened a few years ago with him and his daughter passing, hurt me deeply,” he added. I thought, 24 is the jersey that he wore when he became a legend of the Lakers and of world basketball. I thought it could be a nice, symbolic thing to acknowledge him for all the things he’s done.”

Djokovic is indeed coming off a historic victory; the straight-set win over Daniil Medvedev earned him a fourth US Open title in addition to 24th overall. He also became the first man to win three major titles in one year four times, having previously done it in 2011, 2015, 2021 and now 2023.