Dealing with the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, Bryant's daughter Gianna and seven others was difficult enough for Rick Fox. Then the former Lakers forward realized he had become part of the story.
During Tuesday night's "NBA on TNT" broadcast at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Fox addressed how inaccurate reports claiming he was with Bryant on the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, Calif., impacted both him and his family.
"I don't wish it on anyone," Fox said. "This moment has been overwhelming for all of us. ... My family went through, in the midst of all of this, something I couldn't have imagined them experiencing. I spent time talking to my kids for about 45 minutes as this was all happening, and our colleague Jared Greenberg brought to me the news that morning. He asked by text if I had heard of the story. And I said, 'Oh, the shoes that Kobe gave LeBron, and Kobe passed him last night?' And he said, 'No, you need to sit down.'
"He texted me the article, and I just, I went into full-blown denial. Fortunately, one of my daughter's greatest fears is finding out that a parent, or one of her parents, would 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 we were talking, I was talking to my kids, just trying to spend the time with them. And then the phone just started going off."
Fox said his close friend King Rice, the men's basketball coach at Monmouth University, repeatedly called him until Fox answered. Rice then immediately started crying upon hearing Fox's voice.
"He was like, 'You're alive.' And I'm thinking, 'Well, yeah, like what do you mean?'" Fox said. "And it was in that moment that my phone just started going, and my mom and my sister and my brother. Look, 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're all mourning.
"I'm glad that's over with, but it was hard to deal with because it shook a lot of people in my life."
Kenny Smith became emotional while explaining how he discovered Fox was not involved in the crash.
"The race to be first, to tell the story, you don't know what is does to people," Smith said.
Kenny Smith get extremely emotional while telling story of when he found out Rick Fox was still alive despite reports at the time saying he was dead. pic.twitter.com/lfQWoC2sim— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 29, 2020
While he started his career with the Celtics, Fox is primarily remembered as a Lakers role player who won three championships alongside Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. At the end of a tough show, Shaq offered a much-needed joke.
"I'm glad you're all right," O'Neal said, "but next time I call you and you don't call me back I'm [going to] put these hands on you."