Naomi Osaka and LeBron James join forces with launch of new media company

Sport

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka is launching a new media company in partnership with four-times NBA champion LeBron James aimed at telling stories that cross cultural barriers, the former world No 1 announced.

Hana Kuma, which translates to “flower bear,” will produce stories that are “culturally specific but universal to all audiences” and already has multiple projects lined up, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“There has been an explosion of creators of colour finally being equipped with resources and a huge platform,” Osaka, who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, said in a press release about her newest venture.

“In the streaming age, content has a more global perspective. You can see this in the popularity of television from Asia, Europe, and Latin America that the unique can also be universal.

“My story is a testament to that as well. I’m so excited for what we are building at Hana Kuma. We will bring stories to life with this goal in mind: to make unique perspectives feel universal and inspire people along the way.”

James and Maverick Carter’s The SpringHill Company will serve as financing, operations and producing partner for Hana Kuma.

The production company is the latest project from the 24-year-old Osaka and her long-time agent Stuart Duguid. The duo also have a sports agency named Evolve, which signed Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios as the first member of their roster on Monday.

Osaka recently said she would be skipping Wimbledon for the second year in a row. She has not competed on tour since a first-round loss at the French Open last month.

According to Forbes, Osaka became the world’s highest-paid female athlete in 2020 by earning about $37m thanks to a long list of sponsorship deals.

More recently, she has been taking steps to broaden her brand beyond the tennis court. Asked about Evolve at Roland Garros, Osaka said: “I think role models are really important, just to see somebody do something – and it makes you feel like you can do the same thing, too.

“I found it really interesting that there wasn’t a female athlete that’s done this before, but there has been so many men. So I think it’s a journey, and I feel like I’m going to learn a lot on the journey.”