Novak Djokovic book reveals more details about his bond with basketball legend Kobe Bryant

Kevin Palmer
Searching For Novak - The Man Behind The Enigma
Searching For Novak - The Man Behind The Enigma

He is the most successful tennis player of all time and now a new book has revealed the story behind Novak Djokovic.

Respected writer Mark Hodgkinson has served up the most comprehensive deep dive into the story behind the 24-time Grand Slam champion, as he discovers what drives him to success in a compelling new book, Searching For Novak – The Man Behind The Enigma.

If you think you know the story behind Djokovic’s remarkable rise to international superstardom, this book will add layers to your understanding of a player who attracts a level of adulation and loathing that is barely comparable to any other athlete.

With laser-like attention to detail, author Hodgkinson speaks to the key figures in Djokovic’s career to build a story that is as remarkable as any in modern sport.

Chapter 11 is especially compelling, with the title introducing the reader to what is to come as it is entitled – ‘Haters are a good problem to have’.

“Other tennis players have critics of detractors; Novak Djokovic has haters,” is the opening line of a passage in the book that highlights the story of a man who has attracted a unique level of vitriol.

This chapter looks into the bond struck up between basketball great Kobe Bryant and Djokovic prior to the former’s untimely death in a helicopter accident and pours over the comparisons between the men.

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“Whenever Djokovic felt down, and as though his spirits needed uplifting, he would call Bryant and he could be sure that the American would be There for him,” writes Hodgkinson.

“While Bryant wouldn’t have known all the intricacies of tennis, he understood the emotional challenges of being an elite athlete, and that was what Djokovic wanted from his friend; to talk on an emotional level.

“Sometimes when speaking on the phone, Bryant would instantly have words of advice and encouragement for Djokovic.

“There were also occasions why Bryant wished to mull over Djokovic’s issues and then come back to him with a considered opinion.”

Djokovic has spoken about his bond with the basketball great, but this account highlights just how close the duo were before Bryant lost his life so suddenly and tragically in 2020.

Searching For Novak - The Man Behind The Enigma
Searching For Novak – The Man Behind The Enigma

This superbly crafted book also recounts the story of the Belgrade bomb shelter where Djokovic spent so many nights during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign, with Hodgkinson inside the shelter on a research trip. He also speaks to people close to Djokovic on how he worked through his rage towards NATO and found a way to ‘forgive’.

The passages on his time in detention in Melbourne after he was stopped from entering the country due to Covid restrictions in 2021 is an obvious talking point, with the writer suggesting the time in the detention centre changed Djokovic – even making him a better tennis player – with a friend and confidante advising him to use the time to reflect on the suffering of others who had been in the system for years.

Novak Djokovic celebrations
Novak Djokovic (SRB) shows his Kobe Bryant t-shirt

Hodgkinson looks into Djokovic’s oft-mentioned diet and how he drinks ‘pyramid water’, which can be found in tunnels below pyramids in Bosnia.

He also looks at the fascinating story of the approach from British tennis authorities to try and entice Djokovic to declare for Britain in his formative days.

A place in their Davis Cup team alongside Andy Murray may have been tempting, as the financial backing from the LTA had to be appealing to a youngster with limited resources in Serbia, but he stayed loyal to his country and eventually reaped the rewards.

This came after he was forced to borrow money from a loan shark to fund his tennis training, as Djokovic’s parents were under enormous pressure and had moments when they wondered whether they should stop backing their boy’s tennis dream.

This book is very much Djokovic uncovered and whether you love, hate or loathe the most compelling tennis player of his generation, this is a must-read for all tennis fans.

Searching For Novak – The Man Behind The Enigma is available now.