After the first reports surfaced on Sunday about the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people, rumors floated around on Twitter that fellow retired NBA star and former Lakers teammate Rick Fox was also among the victims.
That was debunked quickly by E! News and other outlets. Now, Fox is speaking out about that terrible day.
"I spent time talking to my kids for about 45 minutes as this was all happening," he said on TNT's Inside the NBA special about Kobe that aired on Tuesday. "I went into full-blown denial [hearing about Kobe]. One of my daughter's greatest fears is finding out that a parent, one of her parents will be lost, through social media instead of from a loved one or a family member. She fortunately called me and we just were talking and crying about the news of Kobe. And my son."
"So I was talking to my kids, just trying to spend the time with them and then the phone just started going off and I'm thinking to myself, everybody wants to talk about Kobe and I right want to be with my kids and my family. And then all of a sudden, my best friend, [Monmouth head coach] King Rice [called]," Fox said, getting emotional. "And I answered and I said, 'Hey, man, this is crazy about Kobe,' and he just was bawling. And I started crying and he was like, 'You're alive.' And I'm thinking, well yeah, what do you mean? And it was in that moment that my phone just started going and my mom and my sister and my brother [all called]."
Fox added, "This has been a lot to process for all of us. Quite frankly, we're blessed to have had the time we had with Kobe. A city is mourning, a family is mourning, we are all mourning and I don't, I'm glad that's over with but it was hard to deal with because it shook a lot of people in my life."
Fox offered his prayers and condolences to his "brother" Kobe's family—wife Vanessa Bryant and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months, and the other families were died in the crash.
The accident, which took place in the hills of Calabasas, California, remains under investigation.
NBA star-turned-sports analyst and former Laker Shaquille O'Neal, who played on the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe as the two helped the team win three straight championships from 2000 to 2002, broke down in tears while talking about Kobe at the start of TNT's pregame show on Tuesday.
"I didn't want to believe it...I haven't felt a pain that sharp in a while," O'Neal said. "Forty-seven years old, I've lost two grandmothers...lost my sister. And now I've lost a little brother."
"The fact that we're not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame Ceremony, we're not going to be able to say, 'Ha! I got five, you got four', the fact that we're not gonna be able to say, 'If we had stayed together, we would've gotten 10,' those are the things you can't get back," he said.