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‘We Did It for Kobe’: How Australian Open Players Are Honoring the NBA Legend

The impact of Kobe Bryant’s death Sunday morning weighed on athletes beyond basketball.

As tennis stars played at the Australian Open matches today in Melbourne, they had the Los Angeles Laker on their minds.

Coco Gauff and Catherine McNally dedicated their win to Bryant. The American duo beat Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara today to reach the women’s doubles quarterfinals.

United States' Coco Gauff, left, and compatriot Caty McNally talk in their third round doubles match against Japan's Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, AustraliaAustralian Open Tennis, Melbourne, Australia - 27 Jan 2020
Coco Gauff (L) and Caty McNally at their doubles’ match.
CREDIT: Dita Alangkara/Shutterstock

“We did it for Kobe today,” McNally told reporters at the end of the match. Gauff added: “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.”

The pair wore tributes to Bryant on their sneakers. Gauff’s pink New Balance kicks had the words “Mamba Mentality” written across the midsole, with the number 24, on the upper as well as the words “RIP Kobe.” McNally wrote “Kobe” and his numbers, 8 and 24, on her white Adidas kicks.

United States' Coco Gauff, right, and compatriot Caty McNally wear a tribute to Kobe Bryant on their shoes during their doubles match against Japan's Shuko Aoyama amd Ena Shibahara at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, AustraliaAustralian Open Tennis, Melbourne, Australia - 27 Jan 2020
Coco Gauff (R) and Caty McNally pay tribute to Kobe Bryant with their shoes.
CREDIT: Dita Alangkara/Shutterstock

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Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios arrived on the court for his fourth round duel with Rafael Nadal wearing a No. 8 Bryant jersey. The Australian was himself considered a basketball prospect before choosing tennis. Kyrgios was later defeated, and Nadal advanced to the next round of play.

Editorial Use OnlyMandatory Credit: Photo by James Gourley/BPI/Shutterstock (10537811gb) Nick Kyrgios arrives on court wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey ahead of his Men's Singles Fourth Round match Australian Open Tennis, Day Eight, Melbourne Park, Australia - 27 Jan 2020
Nick Kyrgios arrives on court wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey at the Australian Open fourth round.
CREDIT: James Gourley/Shutterstock

Following the match, Nadal paid tribute to Bryant with his words, encouraging fans to cheer for the star athlete.

“I wake up this morning with this terrible news and, yeah, [it’s] super sad,” Nadal said in an on-court interview after the match. “He had been one of the greatest sportsmen in history. So he deserves a round of big applause.”

Editorial Use OnlyMandatory Credit: Photo by James Gourley/BPI/Shutterstock (10537811fa) Rafael Nadal celebrates victory after his Men's Singles Fourth Round match against Nick Kyrgios Australian Open Tennis, Day Eight, Melbourne Park, Australia - 27 Jan 2020
Rafael Nadal celebrates victory after his fourth-round match.
CREDIT: James Gourley/Shutterstock

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning in Calabasas, Calif., at age 41. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also on board. The crash resulted in nine fatalities, the Associated Press reported.

Stateside, NBA stars honored Bryant in multiple ways. Teams across the league swapped 8-second and 24-second violations in nods to the baller’s numbers. Similar to Gauff and McNally, several players wore shoes with handwritten messages, among them Kelly Oubre Jr., Austin Rivers and Kyle Lowry.

Outside the Staples Center in L.A., where Bryant held court for years, fans made a makeshift memorial for the star. Inside, at the Grammy Awards, several stars dedicated performances to Bryant, with Alicia Keys and Boys II Men joining together for an acoustic rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”

Click through the gallery to see all the NBA on-court sneaker tributes to Kobe Bryant.

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