Grand Slam dunk! I did it for Kobe Bryant, says Osaka after US Open win
Wearing a Lakers shirt after her win, she said she wanted to make him proud and keep his legacy alive
Naomi Osaka came into the interview room on Saturday night wearing the LA Lakers’ No 8 jersey, made famous by the late Kobe Bryant. Here was a personal tribute to an athlete she once described as her “big bro/mentor/inspiration”.
Osaka – who had just beaten Victoria Azarenka to lift the US Open singles title – came to know Bryant in 2019 after they were introduced through her management agency. She found him approachable and interested, an invaluable source of advice on how to handle her new status as world No 1.
Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash was therefore even more gut-wrenching for Osaka than for the millions of sports fans who had come to know him through their screens. At the time, she posted an emotional letter on Twitter in which she thanked him for “randomly texting me ‘You OK?’, because you know how fucked up my head is sometimes”...