“Helped Me Out a Lot”: Naomi Osaka Says Kobe Bryant Taught Her to Handle Media Attention

Published 04/29/2021, 9:00 AM EDT
Mar 31, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Naomi Osaka of Japan hits a forehand against Maria Sakkari of Greece (not pictured) in a women’s singles quarterfinal in the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


Naomi Osaka has named the person who helped her deal with all the attention and following that comes with being a celebrity sportsperson. Speaking to reporters ahead of launching her claycourt season at the Mutua Madrid Masters, the current women’s World No.2 said that for her, that person was departed NBA stalwart, Kobe Bryant.

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The 23-year-old Japanese, who still fights shy of the flashbulbs despite putting herself on the pinnacle of women’s tennis, said it was the Los Angeles Lakers legend who taught her to deal with all the media attention and not let it affect her game.

Naomi Osaka says the lessons that she learnt from NBA legend Kobe Bryant have stayed with her

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“Yeah, I would say for me, a person that helped me deal with, like, that pressure side of media, he wasn’t a tennis player, but it was Kobe,” Osaka said.

She added that the lessons that she learnt from him at the time have stayed with her.

“He helped me out a lot. I think I learnt a lot from him, yeah,” the four-time Grand Slam champion said.

It’s no secret that the basketball great was one of the superstar athletes that she looked up to as a role model.

In an earlier interview, the reigning Australian Open champion said that she was first introduced to Kobe at a time when she was passing through a career slump and desperately needed some hand-holding to rediscover her passion for the sport.

Tennis – Australian Open – Women’s Singles Final – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 20, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka gives an interview as she celebrates with the trophy after winning her final match against Jennifer Brady of the U.S. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

She revealed that the champion slam-dunker mentored her through that rocky phase and helped her return to winning ways.

Naomi Osaka will open her Madrid Open campaign against compatriot Misaki Doi

Also the reigning US Open champion, Osaka will open her Madrid campaign with compatriot Misaki Doi.

Not the best of starters on clay, the Japanese will face a tough test against a seasoned pro in Doi.

The two have played each other twice, with Osaka holding a 2-0 head-to-head lead.

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However, they will be meeting for the first time on clay at this year’s Madrid Open.

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The World No.2 has already gone on record to say that she is keen to get some wins under her belt on clay this year but it remains to be seen if her resolve reflects in her performance in the Madrid opener.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

825 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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