SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — All week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, players have been carrying out various tributes to basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, who was killed, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others, in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on Sunday.
On Thursday, Jon Rahm, who is playing with a number “24” TaylorMade ball to honor Bryant, paid homage to another hero of his, the late Pat Tillman, with a pair of specially designed Adidas CodeChaos Boa shoes that included an image of Tillman. They were done by sneaker artist Mache (pronounced Mosh) and took 15 hours to create.
“They’re both two great examples and role models of how we can live our lives, two very different ways,” Rahm said of Bryant and Tillman.
Like Rahm, Tillman is an alum of Arizona State who also went on to play for the Arizona Cardinals before enlisting in the Army in 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Two years later, Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
Rahm has often paid homage to Tillman before — in the 2015 tournament, he donned a Tillman Arizona State jersey on the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.
“As an ASU Sun Devil, you got to learn and you basically get imprinted what Pat Tillman meant,” Rahm said. “He was a great example and role model as a student athlete and then having his life figured out, basically being an NFL player [who] decided to go to war, joined the Army and defend the country.”
The shoes, which Adidas says feature an innovative spikeless traction system, will retail for $180 and go on sale Friday.
They’re already off to a good start. Rahm opened with a four-under 67 and was a few strokes off the early lead. Should he go on to win — and Brooks Koepka finishes worse than solo fourth in Saudi Arabia this week — Rahm would become No. 1 in the world for the first time.