“Hopefully, Whatever I Do- He’d Be Proud”- Naomi Osaka Reflects on Kobe Bryant

Published 11/25/2021, 3:00 AM EST
Naomi Osaka and Kobe Bryant as Osaka holds Kobe’s book, ‘Legacy and The Queen.’


Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka is already on her way to making history in the sport. With four single Grand Slam titles to her name, the former world No. 1 is already one of the biggest names in the tennis world. Additionally, she also has seven WTA titles under her belt.

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Not only is Osaka one of the most popular athletes in the world, she is also one of the most socially active. Osaka is known for engaging with fans regularly on social media platforms. In particular, her Instagram interactions with fans are well-known.

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Just yesterday, Osaka had shared an ‘ask-me-anything’ tag on her Instagram stories. Consequently, many fans responded, asking her questions and heaping praise on the tennis star.

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Naomi Osaka has Kobe Bryant as her phone’s wallpaper

When asked by a fan to show them her phone’s home screen wallpaper, the 24-year-old didn’t hesitate. Posting a picture of her wallpaper, Naomi Osaka revealed it to be an image of none other than late basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

It’s been almost two years since Bryant and his daughter Gianna passed away in a helicopter crash that took the lives of nine people. Osaka had been friends with the Lakers legend for some time before his untimely demise. She had previously revealed how Bryant was one of her biggest supporters.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Tennis Training – Ariake Tennis Park, Tokyo, Japan – July 19, 2021 Naomi Osaka of Japan during training REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

“I didn’t even know he was paying attention, but he would text me positive things and tell me to learn from it. For me, it was definitely helpful,” Osaka opened up about Kobe reaching out to her after her matches. [h/t People.com]

Kobe left an everlasting impact on not only his fans but his athletic peers as well. Having been a mentor to the young Japanese player, Bryant gave Naomi a lot of advice.

“It was definitely helpful, just to like, reach out and talk to him whenever there was a situation that I couldn’t figure out the answer to, and just to have that mentor role be filled by him was definitely a big honor for me,” Osaka had recalled in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

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Osaka looks to take Kobe’s legacy forward

In her self-titled Netflix documentary series, Naomi Osaka opened up about Kobe’s effect after his demise. She talked about her admiration for the late star’s competitiveness, called his ‘Mamba Mentality’. Additionally, she shared how she felt similar to him in their killer instinct.

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 31: Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates winning after her Women’s Singles third round match against Cori Gauff of the United States. Day six of the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2019, in Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

“I felt incredibly lucky to have known Kobe and to speak to him on a personal level,” Osaka shared. Going forward, she hopes to make the late 5-time NBA champion proud of her achievements.

“So, hopefully, whatever I do, he won’t be mad about and he’d be proud,” she added.

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Undoubtedly, Naomi has since made her late mentor proud, with four Grand Slam titles and more to come.

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Samarveer Singh

30 articles

Samarveer Singh is a tennis writer at EssentiallySports. Holding a degree in English Literature and a diploma in Fitness Sciences and Training, Samarveer is obsessed with tennis and basketball. A collegiate athlete himself, Samarveer admires all sportspersons who put in the work in order to achieve excellence.

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