Naomi Osaka says Kobe Bryant jersey ‘gave me strength’ at US Open

Osaka made headlines for wearing seven different masks during her matches naming notable Blacks killed by police and vigilante violence.

In this photo from 2019’s U.S. Open in New York City, NBA player Kobe Bryant, who was killed in January, watches a match between Naomi Osaka and Magda Linette. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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During her recent run for the win, U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka made headlines for wearing seven different masks dedicated to bringing awareness to some notable Black Americans killed by police and vigilante violence. 

However, the Haitian/Japanese tennis phenomenon channeled the energy of the ancestors too and also honored the legacy of deceased NBA icon Kobe Bryant by wearing his jersey after playing her games every day. 

In an Instagram post where she held her trophy aloft, her second U.S. Osaka wrote in the caption that she “wore this jersey every day after my matches.” 

“I truly think it gave me strength,” she continued, “Always.” Her words were followed by a yellow heart and a purple heart. 

“I would like to thank my ancestors because every time I remember their blood runs through my veins I am reminded that I cannot lose,” Osaka tweeted on Sunday morning. 

In a press conference after her win, Osaka said that she hopes to live up to be the kind of person Bryant encouraged her to be. She met the NBA legend in June of 2019, and he became a mentor to her. 

Read More: Tennis phenom Naomi Osaka pulls off comeback for US Open win

“He thought I was going to be great, so hopefully, I will be great in the future. Only time will tell,” Osaka said

After Bryant’s passing in a helicopter crash in January of this year, where his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were also killed, Osaka wrote a post honoring him. 

Read More: Japan celebrates Osaka; Sponsors cautious about activism

“Thank you for caring and checking up on me after my hard losses. Thank you for randomly texting me, ‘You ok,’ cause you know how f***** up my head is sometimes,” she wrote at the time. “Thank you for teaching me so much in the short time I’ve been lucky enough to have known you.”

Osaka is currently the world’s highest-earning female athlete. Her efforts to bring awareness to Black victims of violence were celebrated during the U.S. Open. Osaka received video messages of thanks from Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, Sr.

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