As Rob Pelinka, the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, said during the Celebration of Life memorial for Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant, the late basketball icon had picked up an entirely different sport after his retirement — tennis. Shortly following the celebration, which took place at the Staples Center on Monday, tennis champ Naomi Osaka took to Twitter to showcase just how far Bryant's tennis skills were coming along.
Osaka posted a short clip of her and Kobe volleying back and forth on the tennis court. In her caption for the brief clip, she noted that the NBA legend wasn't "THAT bad at tennis." The US Open champion also included an array of emojis in her caption, including purple and yellow hearts in honor of the Lakers' colors, and wrote that she loved Kobe.
The tennis player's post came amidst the Celebration of Life that was held for Bryant and Gianna, during which Pelinka recounted playing tennis with his late friend, as Entertainment Tonight noted.
He wasn’t THAT bad at tennis 🙊😩💜💛 haha love you bro. pic.twitter.com/xn1QgFBfsH— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) February 24, 2020
"When Kobe retired from playing basketball, people would often ask me how I thought he would fuel his competitive drive. The answers came in a couple of surprising ways. The first was in a new sport -- tennis," Pelinka, who is also a godfather to Gianna, said. "Right after Kobe stopped playing for the Lakers, we took up playing tennis at a local private club in Newport Beach."
"We began having epic one-on-one battles. I picked up the game faster than him, so early on he would often fall behind. And that did not sit well with Kobe at all," he continued. "What does the Black Mamba do? The next few times I arrived at the club, there he was waiting for me already with the full sweat."
Pelinka went on to recount that he later found out that Bryant "had secretly reached out to the club's pro for private lessons and didn't share any of it with me."
"Typical Mamba Mentality," he said. "We loved our matches and stories and memories we would share on those beautiful California days."
Fans across the world were able to watch the emotional, public memorial service, which also featured lovely remarks and tributes from Vanessa Bryant, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Kimmel, and Shaquille O'Neal.