Naomi Osaka recalls advice given to her by the late Kobe Bryant

Kerri-Ann Roper, PA Entertainment Editor

Tennis champion Naomi Osaka has shared the advice given to her by the late basketball star Kobe Bryant.

Osaka, 23, has spoken about her friendship with NBA star Bryant, who was killed aged 41 alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others after their helicopter crashed last year in Southern California.

She was speaking as it was announced she has been named the recipient of the Sports Gamechanger award at this year’s upcoming Glamour Women of the Year Awards 2021: The Gamechangers.

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She told British Glamour, when asked if she had advice for the next generation: “Use your voice and don’t be afraid to stand up for what matters to you. I know it is easier said than done, but don’t shy away from it.”

The sports star, who recently won her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, added: “One piece of advice I will always keep sacred and with me was from Kobe.

“He was a mentor and close friend and he helped me get through some of the toughest parts of my life as an athlete. I remember telling him I wanted to be like him, and his response was ‘No, be better.’ I will never forget that.”

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant gave advice to Osaka (Martin Rickett/PA)

Osaka, from Japan, also spoke about the gender disparity in sport.

She told British Glamour: “In tennis, I’d have to say the implementation of equal prize money for men and women at the Grand Slams is progress. I would definitely want to see the gender gap lessen, at the least. The ultimate goal is for it to be equal, of course.

“Tennis is very close to parity thanks to some amazing women that have come before me, like Billie Jean King and Venus Williams. Clearly there’s much more work to be done in other sports – especially those where the women’s game is rapidly gaining more traction, like soccer and basketball.”

Actress Awkwafina is also among the early winners from the upcoming ceremony, and has been named the recipient of the gamechanging creator award.

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Glamour Women of the Year Awards 2021: The Gamechangers will be available to view via Glamour’s website on March 11 at 7pm.