Before the Los Angeles Lakers finished off the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their second-round series, Naomi Osaka won her second career U.S. Open Tennis Championship.
The 22-year old has not only been in the news for her outstanding exploits on the tennis court, but also her message off of it. She chose to boycott her tennis match following the NBA players decision to do the same following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Along with wearing a mask sporting the name of a different victim of police shootings after each of her U.S. Open victories, Osaka also caught the eye of many Lakers fans by wearing the jersey of legend Kobe Bryant following those wins as well.
Like many athletes, Osaka was deeply affected by Bryant’s tragic death earlier this year and following the third major championship of her young career, she tweeted what impact wearing Bryant’s Black Mamba City Edition jersey had:
I wore this jersey every day after my matches. I truly think it gave me strength. Always ???????? pic.twitter.com/R1pTUCaCgq
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) September 13, 2020
Osaka has previously spoken about the impact that Kobe had on her, noting that he would text positive messages at a time when she didn’t even realize he was paying attention to her career. Additionally, when Osaka told Kobe that she aspired to be like him, he told her to be better.
Bryant’s impact was always apparent, and even posthumously he continues to live on through a number of athletes across all sports. Bryant was one of the biggest proponents in the world of women’s sports so seeing the likes of Osaka or WNBA stars such as Diana Taurasi or Sabrina Ionescu continuing to pay homage is truly heartwarming.
Even though Kobe is gone, his spirit and legacy continues to live on not only through the Lakers organization as a whole and its players, and outstanding athletes like Naomi Osaka who will never let him be forgotten.
Chris Paul changed pregame routine to honor Kobe
There aren’t a lot of players left in the NBA today who can say they really squared off with Bryant at his peak, but one of the few is Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul. Though the two battled on the court regularly, there was a great respect between the two as some of the most fierce competitors the league has ever seen.
They were also Olympic teammates in 2008 and 2012, so the connection was close. So much so that Paul revealed that he changed his pregame routine in the aftermath of Kobe’s death.
Paul explained he started hitting the stanchion eight times before the game instead of three, then finished it with ‘Lets go Bean’ before each contest.
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