Summary List Placement
Like so many young athletes, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka solicited guidance from the one and only Kobe Bryant.
In an interview with Vogue, the 23-year-old said the late Lakers legend helped her through the toughest stretch of her professional career. Osaka found herself in a serious slump after winning the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open back-to-back. She made several early tournament exits and admitted that she “didn’t cope well” with the adversity.
That’s when her agent put her in touch with Bryant, whom the now three-time Grand Slam Champion described as “someone who experienced the ups and downs” throughout his illustrious NBA career.
“He taught me that even though it’s tough in the moment, if you keep going, you’ll get the result,” Osaka said. “Or you might not get the result but you’ll get an opportunity to get the result.”
Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others a year ago this month. Osaka was hit hard by the five-time NBA champion’s untimely death and even described feeling as though she was living in “an alternate reality” while crying over videos of the superstar in February of last year.
It’s like everyday they release some more Kobe videos and stuff for everyone to cry about. This feels like an alternate reality.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) February 1, 2020
But even after his death, Osaka drew inspiration from “The Black Mamba.” She said that wearing his No. 8 Lakers “jersey every day after my matches… gave me strength” throughout her historic 2020 US Open championship run.
I wore this jersey every day after my matches. I truly think it gave me strength. Always 💛💜 pic.twitter.com/R1pTUCaCgq
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) September 13, 2020
Osaka is slated to make her 2021 on-court debut in next month’s Australian Open. She’s currently ranked third in the world behind Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and Romania’s Simona Halep — who won the French Open back in September.