How Kobe Bryant Helped Naomi Osaka Through Her Toughest Moments

This put up accommodates spoilers for the docuseries Naomi Osaka.

At some point after Kobe Bryant’s dying, Naomi Osaka went for a stroll and cried. She pulled out her cellphone and recorded a video of herself commemorating the late basketball icon, who had been her mentor because the yr earlier than. 

Across the time of his dying, Osaka had been struggling after shedding a string of matches and getting in her head in regards to the craft. Bryant, she stated, had been each a buoy and a touchstone, a reference level for the way she needed to navigate her profession. “I felt so just like him,” she says quietly within the video, which is proven within the new Netflix docuseries Naomi Osaka.

Bryant’s affect on Osaka is a young by way of line within the intimate, three-episode docuseries directed by Garrett Bradley (Time). After Osaka rose to international fame by defeating Serena Williams within the 2018 U.S. Open, her agent and supervisor, Stuart Duguid, noticed that she had the potential to turn out to be a star past the tennis world. He reached out to Bryant in June 2019, in accordance with The Wall Street Journal, hoping the Lakers legend would have the ability to assist Osaka on her path to superstardom. Bryant organized a gathering the very subsequent morning at his Orange County facility. After the assembly, Duguid informed WSJ, Osaka “got here again to the automotive and stated, ‘That was the most efficient assembly I’ve had in my life.’”

From there Bryant turned Osaka’s mentor, at all times only a textual content or name away. In an interview with GQ, Osaka stated he was just like the brother or uncle she by no means had, and that she always turned to him for profession recommendation. The younger athlete, who was thrust onto the worldwide stage at 20 years outdated, struggled with the media and the truth that she had turn out to be a central determine within the press. Shedding matches solely exacerbated that stress, she informed the journal, however Bryant supplied her some phrases of knowledge. 

“I bear in mind he informed me, ‘Think about that you just’re a lion and also you’re searching your prey,’” she recalled. “‘So that you see a deer off within the distance. And should you watch Animal Planet, you at all times see the lions taking a look at their prey, they usually have gnats round their eyes. Consider the media and the press as gnats, and also you’re the lion, so by no means get distracted. And also you by no means see the lion attempting to swat away the flies or something like that.’”

Kobe Bryant watches a match between Naomi Osaka and Magda Linette in 2019.By Al Bello/Getty Pictures. 

It’s clear Osaka took that message to coronary heart. Within the docuseries, Bradley gently positions Bryant’s dying as a turning level within the tennis champ’s profession. Within the first installment, Bryant—alongside Colin Kaepernick and Osaka’s boyfriend, rapper Cordae—is proven attending considered one of Osaka’s matches, a transparent signal of her rise in cultural affluence; she has turn out to be the athlete whom different athletes enterprise to see. 

Later within the episode, Bradley features a scene of Osaka getting massaged in preparation for an additional match. On the tv occurs to be an interview with Bryant, who’s being requested questions on his mentee’s journey. “There’s going to be a variety of issues that’s going to be thrown at her: commitments, obligations,” he says. “These issues will develop. It’s vital for her to remain targeted on what’s vital, which is the craft.” Early on in Naomi Osaka, it’s clear that Bryant can be a deft presence within the narrative, his legacy influencing Osaka’s route as each an athlete and function mannequin. 



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