Japanese tennis star, Naomi Osaka, has narrated how the late Kobe Bryant’s mentorship shaped her career success.
“I’m supposed to carry on his mentality,” says the four-time Grand Slam singles champion of her mentor in her Netflix documentary series, Naomi Osaka, released on Friday.
Bryant died on January 26, 2020 in air mishap involving a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, USA, with eight other people aboard comprising his 13-year-old tennis-playing daughter Gianna, six family friends, and the pilot Ara Zobayan.
Taking to her her verified Twitter handle @naomiosaka, she says of the docuseries, “So this had been in the process for the past two and a half years. In light of everything that happened recently, I was terrified of this being released.
“She notes that the documentaries “isn’t like a tennis match where I win or lose and from there people can say whether I did well or not. This is a look into my life from certain time periods and I can’t fight the feeling of wondering how it will be received.”
She confesses, “This is in some ways my soul and a reflection of who I am. I hope there are pieces that people can relate to and maybe other pieces that would help people understand why I make the choices I make.
“If it doesn’t that’s cool too, it took me a while; but I realise that I can’t please everyone and I’m really not trying to.
“When I go to sleep at night I can only hope I am at peace with myself and I hope the same thing rings true for anyone reading this. I’m excited/nervous for you guys to see it and I hope you enjoy it lol. Love you all and stay safe.”
Speaking about Bryant’s influence in the intimate, three-episode docuseries, Osaka states that he “had been both a buoy and a touchstone,” adding, “I felt so similar to him.”
Osaka rose to international stardom by beating Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open.
Relating how Bryant became Osaka’s mentor, Wall Street Journal reports that, after the incredible win over Serena, Osaka’s agent and manager, Stuart Duguid, “saw that she had the potential to become a star beyond the tennis world, and reached out to Bryant in June 2019, hoping that the Lakers legend would be able to help her on her path to superstardom.”
The medium states that Bryant arranged a meeting the following morning at his Orange County facility.
Osaka was reported to have said after the encounter, “That was the most productive meeting I’ve had in my life.”
In an interview with GQ, Osaka said that Bryant was like the brother or uncle she never had, and that she constantly turned to him for career advice, especially in the early period when losing matches worsened her stress.