Unseeded American Frances Tiafoe is making a name for himself down under, advancing to the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open. The 21 year old has captivated the sports world, not just with a series of upsets that has seen him knock off 5-seed Kevin Anderson and 20-seed Grigor Dimitrov, but with his post-match celebrations that have paid homage to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
After his second round victory over Anderson, Tiafoe mimicked the “too strong” bicep slap James has been known to perform after scoring a basket through contact.
Unseeded Frances Tiafoe channeled @KingJames after upsetting No. 6 seed Kevin Anderson at the Aussie Open 💪 pic.twitter.com/llwdFT4LCk
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 16, 2019
“You like that? It was pretty cool,” Tiafoe said with a smile when asked about the celebration after the match.
“It is kind of instinct thing,” he added. “I hope the crowd liked it.”
The crowd definitely liked his reaction to beating Andreas Seppi in the third round.
That move was instantly recognizable to NBA fans as “The Silencer,” a move James has broken out over the years after making big shots in the final moments of a game.
James, who has missed the last 13 Lakers games with a strained groin, has yet to weigh in on Tiafoe’s celebrations, but last March he was asked about the spread of “The Silencer” and told reporters, “It’s great when you have other athletes not only in your own respective sport but in other sports that respect what you do and also know the meaning behind it.”
For his part, Tiafoe had nothing but positive things to say about James after his third-round win over Seppi.
“Not just an unbelievable athlete, but what he does outside playing basketball,” he said. “The school he made, putting 50 mill into that, that’s unheard of. He’s an absolute icon. Everything he brings, how he carries himself. Never having trouble with the media, never done anything wrong. He’s a superstar for a reason. He’s LeBron James for a reason.”
If Tiafoe wins his next match, he’ll really have reason to celebrate. He faces 2-seed and 17-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.