Kobe Bryant’s reach stretched well beyond the NBA.
Bryant’s impact on the broader world of sports has been illustrated in the wake of his tragic death in a Sunday morning helicopter crash by the number of athletes around the globe who have shared their personal connection to the basketball superstar.
The latest to publicly share their personal connection to Kobe was tennis star Novak Djokovic.
“He was one of the greatest athletes of all time,” a visibly upset Djokovic told John McEnroe during an on-court interview after his quarterfinal match at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
“He inspired myself and many, many other people around the world. I had the the good fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years. When I needed some advice, some support, he was there for me.”
Djokovic, who is chasing after an 8th Aussie Open title, wore a green Izod jacket during the post-match interview that featured Bryant’s initials and the two numbers he wore during his 20-year career with the Lakers – No. 8 and No. 24.
“He was my mentor, my friend,” Djokovic continued. “And it’s just heartbreaking to hear what has happened to him and his daughter.”
Bryant, 41, died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others when their helicopter crashed near Calabasas, Calif.
Aussie tennis player Nick Kyrgios wore a No. 8 Kobe jersey as he took the court for his match against Rafael Nadal on Monday.
Soccer star Neymar paid tribute to Bryant after scoring a goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s victory over Lille in French Ligue 1 action just hours after Bryant’s death.
Neymar held up two fingers on one hand and four on the other — signifying Bryant’s No. 24 — after his second-half penalty shot. He later posted a photo of Kobe on Instagram.