Celebrity sport

How Kobe Bryant Shaped My Career Success -Naomi Osaka

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.

“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,’” Osaka recalls one of such golden moments with her mentor.

In a television interview featured in the documentary, Bryant says of her, “There’s going to be a lot of things that’s going to be thrown at her: commitments, responsibilities.

“Those things will grow. It’s important for her to stay focused on what’s important, which is the craft.”

Recalling decisive moments that strengthened her career, the Japanese says, “I’m feeling like I let him down. I’m supposed to carry on his mentality in tennis, and here I am…I haven’t won a Grand Slam.

“I’m losing matches because I’m mentally weak, and that’s so uncharacteristic of him [Bryant].”

Concluding her memories of her mentor, Osaka says, “I felt incredibly lucky to have known Kobe and to speak to him on a personal level.

“Hopefully, whatever I do, he won’t be mad about. And he’ll be proud.”

Providing insight into her family background, Osaka says in her Wiki citation, “My dad’s Haitian, so I grew up in a Haitian household in New York. I lived with my grandma. And my mom’s Japanese and I grew up with the Japanese culture too, and if you’re saying American, I guess because I lived in America, I also have that too.”

Her Haitian grandparents only spoke to her in Creole because they did not know English, while her mother conversed with her in Japanese.

Osaka elected for Japanese citizenship over American in 2019, with an eye on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She said, “I always represent Japan when I play.”

Osaka can understand Japanese, but is not very confident speaking the language. She has said, “I can understand way more Japanese than I can speak.”

At press conferences, Osaka can take questions in Japanese but typically will answer them in English.

Osaka’s background is particularly unusual given that she represents Japan, a country that perceives itself as being very racially homogeneous. In Japan, she is referred to as a hāfu, meaning that she is half-Japanese.

Her Japanese grandparents did not initially accept her parents’ relationship. This led to her parents’ relocating from Hokkaido to the city of Osaka, where she and her sister were born.

As a result, her mother had no contact with her family for nearly 15 years and Osaka did not get the chance to return to Japan until she was 11 years old, nor did her grandparents initially support her parents for building their daughters’ lives around tennis.

However, they later began to support Osaka as a tennis player following her unexpected upset of Sam Stosur in her WTA Tour debut. They were also proud of her in particular for winning the 2018 US Open.

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