Nick Kyrgios took to the court at Rod Laver Arena wearing a Los Angeles Lakers jersey, in honour of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Monday morning (AEST).
Bryant, along with his teenage daughter Gianna and seven others, died in the crash roughly 65 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles.
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Known for being a fan of the Lakers’ bitter rivals, the Boston Celtics, Kyrgios donned Bryant’s number 8 jersey as he entered the court.
The Australian was in tears as he walked onto the court, giving the crowd a small wave before covering his face as he walked towards his bench.
Fans on social media thought the jersey was a nice touch, ahead of what has been billed as one of the biggest matches of his career.
Kyrgios joined athletes from around the world who paid tribute to the basketball legend.
Nick Kyrgios clearly emotional as he walks out onto the court wearing a LA Lakers vest in tribute to Kobe Bryant #AusOpen— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) January 27, 2020
Kyrgios trying to hold back tears as he walks out on RLA. All my respect to all the players who went out and played today while grieving.— Nikhila (@kokudum) January 27, 2020
Geez Nick Kyrgios in tears before the match in his Kobe jersey. #AusOpen— Chris De Silva (@cdesilva23) January 27, 2020
Huge basketball fan Nick Kyrgios is wearing the 8 on court now in warmups for his match with Rafa Nadal at the Australian Open. He choked up and cried when he walked on court. https://t.co/T4v3tawaY3— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) January 27, 2020
Kyrgios, maybe the biggest basketball fan in tennis, just walked out onto Rod Laver arena wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey – this is going to be a tough match for him— maddison connaughton (@madconnaughton) January 27, 2020
Kyrgios went on to warm up in the Bryant jersey, posing for a photo alongside his opponent, Rafael Nadal before removing it for the match.
Athletes from around the world paid tribute to Bryant, some during matches of their own.
Athletes pay tribute to idol Kobe Bryant
Sunday’s game between the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs went on as scheduled despite the league-wide mourning, and the players involved found a way to honour the memory of Bryant after the opening tip.
Following a moment of silence from the arena presentation, players from both teams stood still and allowed the 24-second shot clock expire on their opening possessions after the tip-off, a nod to Bryant’s number 24 jersey.
The rest of the league did the same in subsequent games.
The sombre mood of the opening possessions likely reflected those of the players involved, many of whom shared personal connections to Bryant, as he served for 20 years as the face of the Los Angeles Lakers and basketball in California.
A number of players were seen in tears on and off the court.
Spurs star and Compton, California native DeMar DeRozan had signature sneakers as part of Bryant’s Nike shoe line.
Likewise, Raptors guard and San Diego California native Norm Powell is also famously influenced by Kobe, donning Bryant’s signature number 24 on his jersey.
US President Donald Trump, Usain Bolt, Tom Brady, Whoopi Goldberg, Lennox Lewis, Andy Murray and Justin Bieber are among those to pay their respects to the five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star on social media.
Bryant, regarded as one of the best players of all time, represented the Los Angeles Lakers for all of his 20-year career and also won two Olympic gold medals before retiring in 2016.