Naomi Osaka leans on one of the greats for strength.
During a press conference held after her Australian Open semi-final victory over Serena Williams, Osaka wore a classic Los Angeles Lakers sweater, as a nod to her former mentor and NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last January.
According to ESPN, the 23-year-old tennis star credited the Lakers sweater for “extra strength” in their loss to Williams.
“For today, I felt like I needed a little extra strength,” she said of wearing the sweater. “That is why I am wearing this.”
This is not the first time Osaka has donned Bryant’s memorabilia while competing in a tournament.
Osaka regularly wore Bryant jerseys during the US Open last year, including a limited edition “Black Mamba” after defeating Victoria Azarenka to win the women’s singles final.
“I wore this shirt every day after my games. I really think it gave me strength. Always 💛💜”, wrote the tennis player next to the photo.
Bryant would certainly be proud of the tennis phenomenon, with whom he once played tennis.
The clip showed Osaka and Bryant volleying back and forth for a moment, before the video ended with Bryant shoving a ball into the net.
“He wasn’t so bad at tennis haha I love you bro, “Osaka joked.
The young star’s big victory ended the tournament for Williams and may even spell the end of tennis for one of the sport’s biggest stars.
Before leaving the court, Williams addressed the crowd, raising her hand and placing her hand over her heart in thanks. As is always the case in sports, people immediately began to weigh in on whether that was the 39-year-old’s way of saying goodbye for good to fans in Melbourne.
When asked what his gesture to the crowd meant, Williams said: “I don’t know, the Australian crowd was so amazing, it was nice to watch.”
While many athletes make important announcements before retirement, this tennis legend says that when he says goodbye he will keep that information private.
Regarding his future and if goodbye is around the corner, he said: “I do not know, if I ever say goodbye, I would not tell anyone.”
As questions kept coming in, Williams seemed to get excited and finally said he had to finish answering questions, explaining, “I don’t know … I’m done,” as his voice began to shake more.
Osaka’s victory will lead her to the women’s singles final, which will play on Saturday at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.