Novak Djokovic fans clap back at US author for criticising tribute to Kobe Bryant

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Web Desk
This combination of images shows tennis legend Novak Djokovic (left) and late basketball legend Kobe Bryant. — AFP/Files
This combination of images shows tennis legend Novak Djokovic (left) and late basketball legend Kobe Bryant. — AFP/Files

The 2023 US Open witnessed an emotional moment when Serbia's Novak Djokovic paid tribute to the late basketball legend and friend Kobe Bryant.

Djokovic, who secured his record-extending 24th Grand Slam after defeating Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3, donned a custom-made t-shirt featuring a picture of himself alongside Bryant, Sportskeeda reported.

The t-shirt was emblazoned with the words "Mamba Forever" — a reference to the basketball star's nickname, "Black Mamba" — and the number 24, which holds dual significance as it was both Kobe Bryant's jersey number and Djokovic's total number of Grand Slam victories.

During the trophy presentation ceremony, World No. 1 explained that he chose to wear it because Bryant was a "close friend" and someone he "relied on the most."

"Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winners' 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 that I relied on the most," he said.

However, American author Ann Coulter in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, shared her blog post where she called Djokovic’s tribute "absurd", sparking outrage among tennis fans online.

“Congratulations, Novak! You had a black friend. And now that he's gone, there's only the memory of having once had a black friend," Coulter wrote. "The whole production was so 'absurd', it seemed like a Borat sketch of a vulgar foreigner who'd never met a black person."

One fan responded to her remarks arguing that there was no justification for Coulter to "bring up skin colour" and "tarnish" Djokovic's reputation, as he was simply honouring the memory of a friend.

Another fan pointed out that Coulter had misconstrued Djokovic's victory speech, turning it into a "race issue" instead of acknowledging it as a heartfelt tribute to his "friendship" with Bryant, which had been a source of strength during "rough patches" in his career.