Naomi Osaka wore a Lakers sweater in tribute to Kobe Bryant after beating Serena Williams because she 'needed some extra strength'

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naomi osaka lakers
Naomi Osaka wore a Los Angeles Lakers sweater to her post-match press conference. Australian Open/Twitter

Naomi Osaka showed plenty of strength in her Australian Open match on Thursday, but the 23-year-old wanted a little bit more after securing her bid to yet another Grand Slam final.

So, as she typically does, she channeled her late mentor, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, for support.

After taking down her childhood icon, Serena Williams, in an impressive 6-3, 6-4 semifinal performance down in Melbourne, Osaka wore a vintage-looking Los Angeles Lakers sweater to her post-match press conference. And when a reporter asked about her purple and gold ensemble, she explained that she only wore it "for today I felt like I needed some extra strength."

Osaka has noted in the past that Bryant - who died tragically alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, and seven others in a January 2020 helicopter crash - is someone she continually looks to for strength. The five-time NBA champion and Lakers legend taught her the importance of "believing in yourself," and she still carries his wisdom with her more than a year removed from his untimely death.

"That's not always easy to do for anyone, but that was one thing I took from Kobe," Osaka said in an exclusive interview with Insider earlier this month. "Self-doubt helps nobody, and if you cannot believe in yourself, you cannot expect others to believe in you."

kobe bryant naomi osaka
Kobe Bryant (left) and Naomi Osaka. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine TMS/SV/Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

"He gives me strength, and I think about him every day," she added.

Osaka will undoubtedly look to embrace Bryant's famous "Mamba Mentality" as she heads into this weekend's Australian Open final. Should the Japanese superstar take down American Jen Brady in Saturday's match, she'll have earned two career Australian Open titles and four of the last six Grand Slam singles championships played on hard courts.

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