Retired Maria Sharapova Reveals Kobe Bryant 'Meeting That Never Happened'

Maria Sharapova announced her retirement from tennis on Wednesday, saying Kobe Bryant played a big factor in her decision. Sharapova, who has won five Grand Slam titles in her career, spoke to the New York Times about her retirement. She revealed she was set to to meet the Los Angeles Lakers legend before he died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year old daughter Gianna and seven other people on Jan. 26.

"We were supposed to see each other like three days after the crash," Sharapova said, adding that Bryant has been an "incredible sounding board" during her career.

The reason Sharapova was going to meet Bryant was to talk about her physical skills not being as strong as they once were.

"I think we all seem at times in our journey like larger than life because of what we do, but everyone at the core is incredibly fragile," she said of Bryant. "And if anything it just opens up your eyes to what really matters in life, so that was a moment where I had a really good think about my future as well."

Once the crash happened, Sharapova decided to call it a career. However, she knew that her time playing professionally was going to end very soon.

"I look at photos of myself and of the motion where I'm just about to hit the ball, and I'm in the air or just as I'm making contact," she said on Tuesday, "and I can't even look at it because it makes me cringe. I have so much pain."

On Wednesday, Sharapova wrote an essay for Vanity Fair about her retirement.

"Throughout my career, 'Is it worth it?' was never even a question—in the end, it always was," she wrote. "My mental fortitude has always been my strongest weapon. Even if my opponent was physically stronger, more confident—even just plain better—I could, and did, persevere."

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Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004, the U.S. Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open in 2012 and 2014. She was also ranked No. 1 in the world in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2012.

Bryant won five NBA championships during his 20-year career with the Lakers he also won two NBA Finals MVPs and was named NBA MVP in 2008.