Naomi Osaka idolizes Serena Williams and Kobe Bryant. Like Bryant, Osaka arrived at professional sports as a teenager, a product of an international upbringing, burdened by the weight of comparisons to a global icon, one of the greatest of all time.
In the same way that Kobe established his brand while enduring comparisons to Michael Jordan, Osaka has added new layers to roads Williams paved. Sports journalists and fans used to ask, “is Osaka the next Serena?”
No. Osaka is not the next Serena.
She’s the first Naomi, an athlete, self-aware social activist, entrepreneur and philanthropist who transcends sports and cultures.
Earlier this month, poet Amanda Gorman tweeted “See you soon legends,” to actor Timothée Chalamet, singer Billie Ellish and Osaka, her co-hosts at the 2021 Met Gala.
It usually takes athletes years, even decades, to earn legendary status. Yet Osaka, who wasn’t even born when Williams turned pro in 1995, arrived at legendary early. She’s only the second tennis star to co-host the mega-watt celebrity ball. It comes just two years after Williams co-chaired the event with Harry Styles and Lady Gaga.
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