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LeBron James and Naomi Osaka team up to launch media company

Naomi Osaka and LeBron James. (Kelly Defina; Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka and American basketball superstar LeBron James are joining forces to launch a media production company that aims to give a bigger platform to “culturally specific” stories on “important social issues.”

Osaka, 24, said the new venture will be called Hana Kuma, which translates as “flower bear” from Japanese. Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother and moved to the United States at age 3. She is now based in Los Angeles.

“I’ve built my career taking a different approach than those around me,” Osaka said in a post on her Instagram account. “Because my journey has been so different it’s opened my eyes to all the incredible stories out there. Stories that are global, about a variety of cultures and points of view, about important social issues,” she added.

The four-time Grand Slam champion has spoken often about her identity, mental health and pressures on athletes. The new company will make “stories that are bold and playful like me,” she said.

James, 37, a four-time NBA champion, said he was “incredibly proud” to work alongside Osaka on the new venture as part of his SpringHill Co., created with Maverick Carter.

“This incredible woman and the stories she is going to bring to life is EXACTLY what we about!!!” he tweeted.

The production company will feature television shows, documentaries and anime programs, Osaka told the New York Times, which first reported the story. She added that she could not yet say whether she would star in anything herself.

The company is part of a growing portfolio for Osaka, an off-court entrepreneur and one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world. She boasts skin-care and fashion lines, and she runs a sports agency, Evolve, with agent Stuart Duguid. The agency signed fiery Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios earlier this month.

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Osaka withdrew from playing at Britain’s Wimbledon tournament earlier this month, citing a left Achilles’ tendon injury. She played through the injury with tape on her foot at the French Open in May but fell to American Amanda Anisimova, 7-5, 6-4, in the first round.

Osaka, formerly the world’s top player, is ranked 42nd by the Women’s Tennis Association after missing a significant amount of competition over the past few years.

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