What’s the best advice he gave you?
I was asking him questions about how to handle the media and press when I was getting news articles written about me whenever I lost. And that was really stressful. I remember he told me, “Imagine that you’re a lion and you’re hunting your prey. So you see a deer off in the distance. And if you watch Animal Planet, you always see the lions looking at their prey, and they have gnats around their eyes. Think of the media and the press as gnats, and you’re the lion, so never get distracted. And you never see the lion trying to swat away the flies or anything like that.”
Kobe! Do you ever think about life after tennis?
Of course I’d like to have a family. I’m really grateful for it, but I’ve… I’ve never had to experience being famous. You know what I mean? Like, not being able to go anywhere or having to have a security person. So I’m really grateful to be in the position that I’m in, because I don’t think I would be able to handle it.So yeah, just chill somewhere with my family.
You don’t think you’re famous? Like…currently?
Yeah. I honestly don’t think I’m famous.
Naomi Osaka, you’re very famous.
Jacket, $2,850, by Greg Lauren. T-shirt, $120, by Jacquemus. Pants, $565, by A-Cold-Wall. Sneakers, $70, by Puma. Rings (on index finger), $7,900, and (on ring finger), $5,500, by David Yurman.
“My elementary school, middle school, high school was 99.9 percent Black. Kids who look like me. It just felt really weird for me being in that space [at the 2019 U.S. Open]. That was my first tennis match ever.”
The energy is completely different when I talk to Naomi and Cordae together. Getting them to answer a very basic question about how they met takes almost 10 minutes. They’re giggling. They’re blushing. They’re constantly contradicting each other in a way that feels endless. It’s adorable. But trying to put together a coherent timeline of their romantic backstory is tough. Historians will have to chart their relationship as if it were the Big Bang. The only thing we’re fairly certain about is that it happened.
The basic story, as I understand it, is Cordae and Naomi linked up two years ago and exchanged phone numbers. After some back-and-forth, they agreed to meet for a first date at, of all places, Staples Center, for a Clippers game.
Naomi: We were on FaceTime trying to find each other because the arena was so big. And I just remember seeing that there were so many people who wanted to take a picture with him. And I just thought it was really cool how friendly and welcoming he was with everyone.
Cordae, is it true you didn’t know she was a tennis player at the time?
Cordae: Yeah, at the time. It’s not my sport. If you asked me about tennis, before being immersed in it because of Naomi, I could only give you Venus and Serena Williams, you know? Because they’re just a part of the culture.
Naomi, does Cordae play unfinished and new music for you first?
Naomi: Yeah. But he had to warm up to me. And I had to do a lot of pleases. “Please, sir, can I just please listen to your song?” Eventually he let me listen to his music, which I feel really grateful and honored about, to be honest. He’s a perfectionist, and I think that’s sort of what I am too. So maybe that’s why we get along.