WATCH: When Kobe Bryant Picked Novak Djokovic Over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

Published 01/25/2021, 10:00 AM EST
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning a point during his final singles match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day 10 of the ATP Cup at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)


You will have seen it many times since it first dropped but one simply can’t get enough of the interview where departed NBA giant Kobe Bryant stuck his neck out and named his favorite among Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic in men’s tennis.

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Kobe said, “Novak Djokovic my guy” on a live show

While many top names across vocations lean on Roger Federer or his familiar on-court rival Rafael Nadal when it came to taking their pick on who among the Big Three is leading the race for ‘GOAT’, Kobe went with Djokovic in a live show on ESPN.

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A man of few words, the Lakers’ legend settled the debate in one short sentence and said, “Novak’s my guy”.

He then went on to share his personal equations with the Serb superstar, even calling him a long-time friend. “We’ve had a relationship for a long time,” said Kobe, who died tragically in a chopper crash last year.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 21: (L-R) Andy Murray of Great Britain, Novak Djokovic of Siberia, Roger Federer of Switzerland and Rafael Nadal of Spain attend a ceremony for Carlos Moya’s retirement during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on November 21, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

However, the slam-dunk stalwart also spoke about his fondness for Nadal and Federer, revealing that the Swiss icon once sent him a racquet.

When Nadal paid a heartfelt tribute to Kobe

The Spaniard paid a heartfelt tribute to the NBA great by donning a Lakers cap following his fourth-round win over Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open last year and even urged the crowd to stand in applause to the departed legend.

Speaking courtside with John McEnroe, Nadal said, “He was one of the greatest sportsmen in history…It’s one of those days you want to forget but of course, Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts and in our minds for the rest of our lives.”

A self-confessed basketball fanatic, Kyrgios, too, paid a moving tribute to Kobe by pulling on a Lakers jersey with the word ‘Bryant’ on the back of it.

Djokovic remembered Kobe as his friend and mentor

Djokovic, too, remembered his friend of 10 years by wearing a jacket with the initials of the great man and even his jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – inscribed on it.

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Visibly affected by the word of the chopper crash that took the life of his friend and his daughter, among others, Djokovic, during a courtside address, said, “I had the fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last ten years.”

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The Serb recalled that he would often turn to the Lakers legend for support and advice and even called him “my mentor, my friend”.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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