Naomi Osaka is partnering with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill to form Hana Kuma, a media company set for a variety of projects with meaning to the tennis star and the communities she represents.
Brooks Barnes had the news at the New York Times:
Ms. Osaka, 24, has started a media company called Hana Kuma in partnership with SpringHill, a fast-growing entertainment, marketing and products company co-founded by Mr. James. Ms. Osaka said in a brief Zoom interview that her ambitions for Hana Kuma, which stands for “flower bear” in Japanese, include scripted and unscripted television series, documentaries, anime and branded content, which is entertainment programming that has embedded or integrated advertising.
“I honestly can’t say if I’ll personally be in anything right now,” Ms. Osaka said. “What excites me is being able to inspire people and tell new stories, particularly ones that I would have wanted to see when I was a kid. I always wanted to kind of see someone like me.” Ms. Osaka is of Japanese and Haitian ancestry.
LeBron weighed in on the news via Twitter:
There’s reason we call ourselves an Empowerment Company. This incredible woman and the stories she is going to bring to life is EXACTLY what we about!!!Incredibly proud to call her my partner. @naomiosaka @makespringhill #MoreThananAthlete https://t.co/mellHFKP9Q
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 21, 2022
As for what kinds of content Osaka’s company will look to create:
One project in development involves cooking and the Haitian community. “I watch a lot of food-related shows, cooking competitions, because I like to cook,” Ms. Osaka said with a laugh. The first project with Hana Kuma credits will be a New York Times Op-Doc about Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress. Hana Kuma is also working on unspecified documentary content for Epix, a premium cable channel now owned by Amazon.
Obviously the trend of athletes moving into the business and entertainment world isn’t a new one, although more and more stars aren’t waiting until their playing careers are over to do so. If this move works for Osaka and her interests, it could also be a further boost for SpringHill itself, already a hot company valued at nearly $1 billion. They’d be well-positioned to set up deals like this for other top athletes following a similar model.