Naomi Osaka hailed a 'hero' for wearing Kobe Bryant jersey while watching Serena Williams play US Open semifinals
Japan’s tennis ace Naomi Osaka made a statement after her three-set victory over America’s Jennifer Brady in the US Open semifinals on September 10 held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. While she is advancing to her second US Open finals to be held on September 13, it is her donning a Kobe Bryant jersey after the match that caught everyone’s attention. A photo surfaced on the Internet that showed Osaka, who ended Brady's brilliant run with a 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 victory, wearing a Los Angeles Lakers jersey and a cap to complete the post-match look. The player wore the Kobe jersey while watching Serena Williams in her match with Victoria Azarenka in the US Open semifinal. Serena, who was in hot pursuit of a seventh US Open crown and a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title lost the match. Reporter Greg Beacham also wrote, "Ayyyy Naomi Osaka repping the Black Mamba while she watches Serena Williams at the US Open."
Naomi wearing a Kobe jersey watching Serena > pic.twitter.com/8zlezwfytY— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) September 11, 2020
Ayyyy Naomi Osaka repping the Black Mamba while she watches Serena Williams at the US Open pic.twitter.com/6YrS6cIpsf— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) September 11, 2020
It is being presumed that Osaka was also showing support to team Lakers who was in a match with Houston Rockets on the same day on September 10 during the National Basketball Association series. Eventually, the Lakers did win the match, that too in the first half of the game. So why would Osaka sport a Lakers jersey?
Kobe Bryant and Osaka
Bryant is one of the greatest players that the Lakers had. He had spent his entire career with them until 2016’s retirement. The player won five NBA championships under him and he was an 18-time All-Star and a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team. The player who gave himself the nickname "Black Mamba" in the mid-2000s, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his 2017 film 'Dear Basketball'. However, in a fatal incident in January 2020, Bryant died at age 41, from the trauma sustained from a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
The player had been like a mentor to Osaka. He was seen watching Osaka play in many of her matches including the 2019 US Open match between her and Magda Linette of Poland. At that time, Osaka who revered him as a real-life adviser said, “Everybody knows Kobe gives me real-life advice. 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 talk to him.”
Bryant, after retiring from the NBA got reportedly addicted to tennis as reported by The New York Post. That addiction had led to him publish his book ‘Legacy and the Queen’, about the sport. He even visited the US Open to both promote his book and watch young stars Osaka and Coco Gauff play as reported by the site in 2019. Even after his death, nothing changed in Osaka’s admiration for the historic player. Osaka wrote a heartfelt letter to Bryant on Twitter thanking her “big bro” for his inspiration and compassion.
Forbes reported that in a week in which Bryant would have turned 42, Osaka went to honor him when she announced that she would boycott her semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open in New York in 2020. “For me, I just always wish that I would do something that [Bryant] is proud of,” Osaka told ESPN’s Chris McKendry as reported by Forbes. “And I felt incredibly lucky to have known Kobe and to speak to him on a personal level, so hopefully whatever I do he won’t be mad about it and he’d be proud.”
Osaka even went to honor Bryant and wore a “Black Lives Matter” shirt in 2020 as per Forbes. She said that during the halt of sports activities due to Covid-19, she got enough time to ponder on what happened in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder on May 25 and so became “more aware of the impact that” her “voice” could have.
Following Osaka's gesture, the Internet took notice of this and showered her with love. Some even brought up how in the past she has worn a Bryant badge in a match as tribute to him. A fan wrote in Osaka's appreciation. "Naomi Osaka appreciation post.Fighting the right fight against racial injustice.Reaching the US Open final.Wore a Kobe Bryant jersey in the stands.A hero to so many watching."
Naomi Osaka appreciation post 👏🏻— More Than A Game (@mtagofficial_) September 11, 2020
Fighting the right fight against racial injustice ✅
Reaching the US Open final ✅
Wore a Kobe Bryant jersey in the stands ✅
A hero to so many watching.#NaomiOsaka pic.twitter.com/RhUzjkCw4k
A user wrote about it, “Naomi Osaka wearing the Kobe jersey.”
Naomi Osaka wearing the Kobe jersey 🔥 🔥— Manj (@sallu4eva) September 11, 2020
A Bryant fan wrote, “Loving the ferocity with which Serena is playing tonight but can't get past the fact that @naomiosaka got the #MambaDay Kobe Bryant jersey and I didn't #USOpen2020.”
A user wrote on her wearing Bryant badge, “Love how Naomi Osaka has the Kobe Bryant (KB) patch stitched on her racket bag. Mamba Forever!”
Love how Naomi Osaka has the Kobe Bryant (KB) patch stitched on her racket bag. Mamba Forever! pic.twitter.com/mQZeWzBBfi— Eugene (@EugeneOEA) September 7, 2020