Novak Djokovic struggled to hold back his tears as he spoke about his relationship with NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
Speaking following his victory over Milos Raonic at the Australian Open, Djokovic, dressed in a sweatshirt with ‘KB’ inscribed on the front, along with Bryants two retired numbers, 8 and 24, said Kobe had “inspired” him as well as “many other people around the world.”
Novak, who also described Kobe as one of the “greatest athletes of all time” spoke about his close relationship with the former Los Angeles Lakers star.
“I had the fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years. When I needed some advice and some support he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend. It’s heartbreaking to see and hear what has happened to him and his daughter.”
The 41-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers star was reportedly in his private chopper when the aircraft dropped from the sky.
His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna was also in the helicopter.
According to The Los Angeles Times. the crash occurred around 10:00am local time “amid foggy conditions in the hills overlooking Calabasas, with the chopper sparking a bush fire on impact that hampered initial rescue efforts.”
Bryant was reportedly one of nine people in the helicopter at the time, according to TMZ.
No survivors were discovered.
18-time All-Star Kobe spent 20 years at the LA Lakers winning five championships.
Until about a week ago, Kobe was the third-highest scorer in NBA history, a position he relinquished to Lebron James.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
His final tweet was a congratulatory one to James, urging him to keep moving the game forward
Kobe, known fondly as the Black Mamba, retired in 2016.
He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and three children, the last of whom was born in June.
In 2018, Kobe won an Oscar for his short film, “Dear Basketball,”; it won the prize for best animated short.
Novak Djokovic has gone on to reach the Australian Open final after beating Roger Federer in Thursday’s semi.