Bryant may no longer be alive, but his spirit and the life lessons he taught Osaka will remain with her forever.
Kobe Bryant was like an older brother/uncle to Naomi Osaka
In an interview with Mark Anthony Green of GQ, Naomi Osaka admitted that Kobe Bryant was like an older brother/uncle. The three-time Grand Slam champion would often call Bryant in her free time, and the NBA icon always picked up the phone no matter what he was doing.
“I would say he was like the older brother/uncle that I wish I always had,” Osaka said about Bryant. “He was someone that, no matter how busy he was, for some reason he always picked up the phone when I called him. And I remember once, after the  U.S. Open, I called him after one of my matches and he was just hanging out with his youngest daughter. He’s someone that gave me advice.”
Bryant was the face of the Nike brand before he tragically passed away in January of 2020. Osaka is a Nike athlete as well. She has become one of the world’s most popular sports players due to her elite tennis skills and rugged good looks.
Osaka was very emotional when Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash. It took her a while to gather her thoughts and emotions before penning a heartfelt message to the five-time NBA champion on social media for everyone to read.
After Naomi Osaka won the 2020 US Open, she wore a Kobe Bryant jersey at her postgame press conference with the media. Osaka has grown more comfortable speaking to the press as time has gone on, and Bryant is a primary reason why.
Kobe Bryant gave Naomi Osaka inspirational advice
At the start of her career, Naomi Osaka was bashed a lot by the media because she wasn’t winning many matches. The tennis star struggled with the press, so she turned to Kobe Bryant for advice.
As expected, Bryant gave Osaka words of wisdom.
“I was asking him questions about how to handle the media and press when I was getting news articles written about me whenever I lost. And that was really stressful,” Osaka said. “I remember he told me, ‘Imagine that you’re a lion and you’re hunting your prey. So you see a deer off in the distance. And if you watch Animal Planet, you always see the lions looking at their prey, and they have gnats around their eyes. Think of the media and the press as gnats, and you’re the lion, so never get distracted. And you never see the lion trying to swat away the flies or anything like that.'”
This is tremendous counseling from Bryant, one of the fiercest competitors in NBA history. Osaka uses the guidance she received from Bryant every day, and it’s helped her become one of the world’s top tennis players.
Naomi Osaka has come out of her shell thanks to Kobe Bryant. She is the highest-paid female athlete in the world and isn’t afraid to speak her mind anymore.
Will the No. 3 player in the world win her fourth Grand Slam at the Australian Open?
Naomi Osaka is looking to win her fourth Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australian Open.
Kobe Bryant is surely looking down on her from heaven and rooting for the 23-year-old to succeed.