Naomi Osaka plays on a different kind of court. Even so, the inspiration she took from Kobe Bryant — who became “addicted” to tennis in retirement — remains just as strong.
Osaka penned a heartfelt letter to Bryant on Instagram thanking her “big bro” for his inspiration and compassion. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were two of nine who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
“Dear, Big bro
Hey ... I don’t really know what to do so I’m writing you this letter.
Thank you for being you.
Thank you for inspiring people everywhere, you have no idea how many hearts you’ve touched. Thank you for for [sic] being so humble and not acting as big as you are. Thank you for caring and checking up on me after my hard losses. Thank you for randomly texting me, “You ok?”, cause you know how f— up my head is sometimes. Thank you for teaching me so much in the short time I’ve been lucky enough to have known you.
Thank you for existing.
You will forever be my big bro/mentor/inspiration. Love you.”
Bryant immersed himself in the sport after his 2016 retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I played a lot of tennis, and all of a sudden, I found myself addicted to it,” Bryant told the New York Post in August 2019 at the U.S. Open.
He spoke highly of Osaka, 22, and fellow phenom Coco Gauff, 15, and has the experience of being a young superstar to share with them. He talked with Osaka often and was in her box at the U.S. Open along with Colin Kaepernick.
“Everybody knows Kobe gives me real-life advice,” Osaka said after that match. “He's someone I look up to as an athlete and also as a person. I'm really grateful that I even have the opportunity to, like, talk to him and stuff."
Bryant was at the Grand Slam tournament in part to promote his book, “Legacy and the Queen.” He came up with the idea of a story about a 12-year-old orphan named Legacy, an “underdog female tennis prodigy” who uses her tennis talent to save a magic kingdom, and wrote it with author Annie Matthew. It has a nearly four out of five star rating on Goodreads.
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