Naomi Osaka Reveals Key Lessons Learned from NBA Legend and Idol Kobe Bryant

Published 01/11/2021, 8:00 AM EST
Naomi Osaka of Japan with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup following victory in her Women’s Singles Final match against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic during day 13 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)


Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has revealed how she came to be introduced to departed NBA legend Kobe Bryant and how it turned out to be a career-defining moment for her.

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In an interview with Vogue, the three-time Grand Slam champion said she met Kobe at a time when her career was close to falling off the cliff.

After becoming the second after Jennifer Capriati in women’s tennis history to win her first couple of Grand Slam titles back to back, Osaka fell into a prolonged bad patch which saw her make early exits at four Grand Slams. It also dragged down her singles ranking from Number 1 to 10.

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Kobe advised Naomi Osaka to keep plugging away till she finds the right result

Recalling that phase in her career, Osaka said, “Every young person has a fearlessness, and once you sort of settle in, and you feel like you have all the expectations on you, you start to overthink a lot of things. Honestly, I didn’t cope well.”

Just when an element of self-doubt started creeping into her game, her agent got her to meet the Los Angeles Lakers stalwart, and a few words of encouragement from the great man helped her make a remarkable turnaround.

While Kobe tragically died in a chopper crash last year, Osaka said that the memories of their friendship which was rudely cut short will serve as lifters whenever she feels down.

She said that a piece of advice from the slam-dunk legend that has stayed with her is that one will find the right result sooner or later if one keeps going. 

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He was someone who experienced the ups and downs. He taught me that even though it’s tough in the moment, if you keep going, you’ll get the result—or you might not get the result but you’ll get an opportunity to get the result,” said Osaka, a self-confessed basketball fan.

True to that piece of wisdom, the Japanese player was able to turn things around and taste Grand Slam glory again at the US Open last year. She finished the 2020 season ranked number three and will go into the Australian Open in the hope of landing her fourth Major crown.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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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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