'You Only Have To Focus On Your Prey': Osaka Talks Late Kobe Bryant's Influence

'You Only Have To Focus On Your Prey': Osaka Talks Late Kobe Bryant's Influence

by Nurein Ahmed

Naomi Osaka and the late Kobe Bryant shared a very special relationship, but the Japanese star expressed doubt about not meeting the NBA legend's expectations.

After taking maternity leave for the whole last season, Osaka returned to the WTA Tour at the start of 2024. The four-time Grand Slam champion welcomed her first child, daughter Shai, in July 2023 and immediately after began an intense training routine to get her body in competitive shape.

The former World No. 1 revealed that she would be honoring a busy schedule in 2024 by playing in many tournaments. With almost four months of the season gone, Osaka has played in eight tournaments.

Her season's highlight so far includes a quartefinal run at the WTA 1000 in Doha. She was also instrumental in helping Japan qualify for the 2024 Billie Jean King Cup Finals by scoring a crucial singles win over Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva.

Osaka's transition from hard court to clay was hardly seamless as she fell to a shock defeat in the first round of the Rouen Open against Martina Trevisan in her last tournament.

The 26-year-old recently appeared in an episode of the Good Trouble With Nick Kyrgios podcast. Osaka recounted her story of meeting Kobe Bryant for the first time in June 2019.

Having emerged on the international stage as a new tennis star, Osaka explains how Bryant became her mentor when she was too stressed to deal with public scrutiny from media and fans.

"I remember when I first met him when we sat and had three hours of conversation. One of the things I always remember him telling me is that people around you are noise like if there's news in the media or whatever like you’re the lion and all of that is flies buzzing around the lion’s eyes and you only have to focus on your prey."

The American sadly passed away in January 2020 in a helicopter crash in California. Despite the short-lived relationship, Osaka has previously referred to Bryant as the uncle or brother she never had.

Bryant's demise has touched many people in the sporting world, and one of those is the Japanese tennis star, who had been constantly looking for his advice while walking the path of stardom.

She admits to feeling "inspired," but Osaka wonders if she might have fallen short of meeting her mentor's expectations.

"I was like really inspired by that because sometimes when I sit and think about my career, I feel a little sad because like I wonder if he [Kobe Bryant] is disappointed in me and how I handle things."


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