US teen tennis champ Coco Gauff paid tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Australian Open today by customizing her shoes with a message about the basketball legend, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
The 15-year-old athlete played alongside Caty McNally, 18, in the third round of the Women’s Doubles tournament today, winning the match against Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara.
The two dedicated their win to Kobe and even drew wrote tribute messages to him in permanent marker on their shoes.
Missed: US teen tennis champ Coco Gauff paid tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Australian Open today by customizing her shoes with a message about the basketball legend
Champs: The 15-year-old athlete played alongside Caty McNally, 18, in the third round of the Women’s Doubles tournament today, winning the match
Message: She also flashes two fingers on one hand and four on the other, for his number 24
Gauff wore a pair of bright pink New Balance shoes for the game, but before heading out on the court, she scribbled a heartfelt message in blank ink.
Remembering both Kobe and his daughter, she wrote ‘Rip Kobe and ‘Rip Gigi,’ the numbers 8 and 24, and the words ‘Mumba Mentality.’
She also showed the shoes off on Instagram with video and a photo, captioning the latter with purple and yellow hearts.
McNally also scribbled Kobe’s name and both of his numbers on her shoes.
After the match, Gauff signaled Kobe’s number, 24, by holding up two fingers on one hand and four on the other. McNally held up eight fingers.
On Insta: Gauff share a photo of her shoes after the match, captioning it with hearts
Tragic: She wrote ‘Rip Kobe’ and ‘Rip Gigi’ for his 13-year-old daughter
‘We both looked up to him. Even speaking about it right now is a bit emotional,’ Gauff said
Tribute: She shared a close-up of the shoes on Instagram later
Remembered: Gauff also shared an old video of a signed book that Kobe had sent her
‘When we heard the news, we were both heartbroken. We both looked up to him. Even speaking about it right now is a bit emotional. We had to do something for him and I know he’s looking down on us right now,’ Gauff said, according to Essentially Sports.
Coco — who is the youngest player ranked in the top 100 by the Women’s Tennis Association — also shared another remembrance on Instagram, posting an old video of a signed book that Kobe had sent her.
‘Dream it, then live to make the dream even greater,’ he wrote.
‘It’s so cool and I can’t wait to read it,’ Coco said.
Several other tennis stars have shared their own tributes since news broke that Kobe, Gianna, and seven others died in the crash Sunday morning.
Sending a signal: Her teammate, McNally, wrote on her own sneakers as well
Dedicated to him: The two won against Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara and dedicated the match to Kobe
‘My heart truly mourns over the news today. Kobe was a great mentor and friend to me. You and your daughter will live forever in our hearts. There are not enough words to express my deepest sympathies to the Bryants and every family suffering from this tragedy. RIP my friend,’ wrote Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
Rafael Nadal of Spain played Nick Kyrgios of Australia at the Australian Open today and wore a Lakers cap after the match.
‘What can I say, I woke up this morning with this terrible news,’ he said in an on-court interview. ‘It’s super sad. He was one of the greatest sportsmen in history. He deserves a big round of applause.
‘It’s one of these days that you want to forget but of course Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts and in our minds for the rest of our lives.’
Kyrgios, meanwhile, wore a Lakers jersey after the game and shared thoughts.
Rafael Nadal also wore a Lakers cap in his post-match press conference at the Australian Open
Tributes all around: Nick Kyrgios of Australia also donned a Lakers Jersey in Kobe’s memory
Sad: Naomi Osaka posted her own tribute on Instagram, sharing a photo of her and the basketball legend
‘I never met Kobe but basketball’s practically my life, I watch it every day and I’ve been following it for as long as I remember … it’s tough, it’s horrible news,’ he said.
‘If anything it motivated me [during the game]. If you look at the things he stood for and what he wanted to be remembered by I felt like if anything it helped me tonight. When I was down a break in the fourth I was definitely thinking about it and I fought back.’
Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka shared a photo of herself with Kobe with the caption, ‘-from Naomi. always with love.’
‘Hey… I don’t really know what to do so I’m writing you this letter,’ she wrote in a Notes screengrab. ‘Thank you for being you. Thank you for inspiring people everywhere, you have no idea how many hearts you’ve touched.
‘Thank you for being so humble and not acting as big as you are. Thank you for caring and checking up on me after my hard losses.
‘Thank you for randomly texting me, “You ok?”. cause you know how f***ed up my head is sometimes.
‘Thank you for teaching me so much in the short time I’ve been lucky enough to have known you. Thank you for existing. You will forever be my big bro/mentor/inspiration. Love you.’