Vlade Divac: Why Novak Djokovic deserves SI's Sportsman of the Year
Novak Djokovic is one of the leading contenders for Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsman of the Year. You can see the full list and the entire series of essays that make the argument for each candidate here.
I first met Novak Djokovic about 10 years ago at the ATP Masters event in Madrid. He was only a teenager then, just getting started in his career, and I had just retired from 16-year NBA basketball career and moved to Madrid with my family. I was able to watch him play a few matches there—out of basketball, soccer, all of the sports, tennis is my favorite sport—but this was not the first I had heard of this kid from Belgrade.
I am much older than Novak—almost 20 years his senior—but when I was playing basketball in the States, I heard about this very talented kid playing tennis and I started to follow him. When he was about 18, I was finally able to meet him in Madrid and since then, we have become good friends. Our busy schedules do not allow us to spend a lot of time together, but I really follow his career, especially because later on I became the head of Serbia’s Olympic Committee. He has participated in two Olympics, but hopefully he will win the gold for Serbia at the Rio Games in 2016.