Rick Fox is opening up about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, and how rumors and inaccurate reports claiming he was in the fatal helicopter crash as well terrified his family.
Joining Derek Fisher, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson during a segment on Tuesday's Inside the NBA, Fox was emotional from the first moment as he tearfully reflected on the shock and surreal pain of the tragic accident.
"This moment has been overwhelming for all of us, first and foremost for the families that were lost and whose lives have been turned upside down," Fox said, adding that when he first heard the news he "went into full-blown denial."
However, to add to the pain and confusion, some media outlets began reporting rumors that Fox may have been among those killed in the crash.
"My family went through, in the midst of all this, something that I couldn't imagine them experiencing," Fox recalled. "One of my daughter's greatest fears is finding out that one of her parents has been lost through social media, instead of from a loved one or a family member. And she fortunately called me and we were just talking and crying about the news of Kobe."
As he was talking with his daughter -- who had not seen the reports suggesting he was also a victim in the accident -- Fox said he began getting a storm of calls from many different people.
"The phone starts going off, and I'm thinking to myself, 'Everybody wants to talk about Kobe.' And right now I want to be with my kids and my family," Fox said, explaining why he had chosen not to answer, which only led to the rumor gaining even more traction.
However, he finally picked up when he got a call from his best friend, basketball coach King Rice, who was calling frantically after being told Fox had died.
"I'm seeing King's number repeatedly going and going and going, and so I think he's worried about me, so I said, 'I'm gonna talk to my best friend,' so I answered and said, 'Hey man, this is crazy about Kobe,' and he just was bawling," Fox recounted. "He was like, 'You're alive!' And I was like, '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 [were calling]."
"I'm glad [the rumor] is over with, but it was hard to deal with because it shook a lot of people in my life," he added.
"This has been a lot for all of us to process," Fox said, reflecting on the accident. "We were blessed to have had the time we had with Kobe. A city is mourning, a family is mourning, we are all mourning."
Alyssa Altobelli, a teammate of Gianna's, was also on the helicopter, along with her parents, Keri and John Altobelli, who was a baseball coach at Orange Coast College.
Also among the victims is Christina Mauser, an assistant coach at Harbor Day School in Corona Del Mar, California, who had previously worked with Bryant on a clinic for WNBA players at the Mamba Academy. Another of Gianna's teammates, Payton Chester, and her mother, Sarah Chester, also lost their life in the crash.
For more on the outpouring of grief, condolences and heartfelt tributes to the victims of the crash, see the video below.