“Feeling Like I Let Him Down”: Naomi Osaka Opens Up on Idol Kobe Bryant’s Death in Her Netflix Documentary

Published 07/17/2021, 6:30 AM EDT
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 24: Naomi Osaka of Japan speaks to media following her Women’s Singles third round defeat to Coco Gauff of the United States of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)


Naomi Osaka finally made her Netflix debut yesterday with the release of her much-awaited self-titled docuseries, ‘Naomi Osaka’. The series, taking a deeper dive into the life of the 23-year-old star, covers her story from behind the scenes, capturing moments that made Naomi the world-renowned player that she is.

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Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant lost their lives last year in an unfortunate helicopter crash.

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Naomi looked up to Kobe throughout his basketball career and sought inspiration from him for her own success. Hence, this loss was personal to her and left Naomi utterly devastated.

In a rather heartbreaking scene, the camera captured the moment Naomi heard the shocking news of Kobe Bryant’s death.

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Naomi Osaka feels she disappointed Kobe Bryant

The second episode of the series covers Naomi‘s struggle on-court at the 2020 Australian Open. The defending Champion faced a shocking defeat at the hands of her counterpart, Coco Gauff.

The two-time US Open champion could not comprehend this loss, and in order to cope with the mental stress, she took a walk around the city. However, it was then that Naomi heard of Kobe’s death.

Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates winning match point during her Women’s Singles final match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Day Thirteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Overwhelmed with unbearable emotions, Naomi documented herself raw and unfiltered. Teared up, she said, “It’s so amazing how one person can, like I don’t know, touch the hearts of so many people.

“Like I have been walking around and there are so many people with a Bryant jerseys on.” 

 

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She expressed how connected she felt to him when the two first met at the US Open. “When I talked to him, I felt so similar to him. Like the way he was talking, the way he would describe how, I don’t know, he would do things to get under his opponent’s skin or whatever, and I was like ‘that’s literally what I do.'”

The two shared an incredible relationship, as one often mentored the other. Hence, Kobe’s death felt extremely personal to Naomi.

“I’m feeling like I let him down like, what… Am I… I’m supposed to carry on his mentality and here I am, like, having… what… I haven’t won a grand slam. I… I’ve… I… like, I’m losing matches because I’m mentally weak and he’s… that’s so uncharacteristic of him,” she said.

 

 

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Naomi’s return to the court

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Understandably, she struggled to cope with this loss for months. Even though she returned to the court soon after, Osaka was physically present but mentally lost. However, surrounded by friends and family, she soon found her way back up and got to her very best eventually. Regardless, nothing could make up for what Kobe meant to the Japanese national.

Mar 31, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts after missing a shot 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

The Netflix series documents moments like these that shaped Naomi’s career and are a testament to her brilliant character, on and off the court.

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DIVE DEEPER

“People Told My Dad I Would Never be Anything”: Naomi Osaka Reveals Struggles of Becoming Slam champion

20 days ago

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Melroy Fernandes

137 articles

Melroy Joseph Fernandes is a Tennis author at EssentiallySports. A Mass Media graduate, Melroy has been a content writer for the past 6 years, curating stories for several brands, starting from his own. At the age of 17, Melroy began his writing Journey with Team BIB, an event management company for everything Art and Entertainment.

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