PACIFIC PALISADES, California – Brooks Koepka never met Kobe Bryant. But he came up with an idea last fall – one he had no idea about would lead to something so profound.
Koepka, who wanted to honor Bryant during this week's Genesis Invitational, turned to Nike, one of his main sponsors, to design a pair of purple and gold golf shoes to commemorate the longtime lacquer he described as one of the "most effective" , & # 39; athlete in his life.
"I sat down with Nike last fall, I think it was October," Koepka said Thursday after shooting a 2-under-69 in the opening round of the Riviera Country Club. "I've always been a big Kobe fan. It influenced my life a lot. I never met him, but we wanted to do that. We came up with the idea [for the shoes] back then … and it was crazy. "
Koepka, who was playing in the Middle East when Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in the January 26 helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, said he woke up around midnight to take his girlfriend Jena Sims to the airport and her bring told him the "pretty shocking" news.
"I didn't believe it," said Koepka. "I was half asleep, 12:30 in the morning [in the Middle East], I saw that my phone went out a lot, to say the least. Then Jena said that Kobe had died. I didn't really believe it at first, just kind of didn't know what was going on. They say, "Is it true?" It is not? Is it a rumor? "
"I wrote to a Nike employee and said," We have to do something. I have to do something next time I'm in LA. “I completely forgot about the shoes [that already had been designed]So it was a surreal moment when I thought I was going to do something five months in advance, and then it happened. I never cried over someone I never met and that was the first time. "
Koepka, who had just lost his No. 1 world ranking to Rory McIlroy this week, said he "somehow hoped" to give Bryant a pair of shoes so that he could see what impact he had on my life. & # 39; & # 39;
"Hopefully, [I’ll] Pick them up for charity and raise money for everyone involved in the crash, "Koepka said of the shoes.