Kobe Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Rick Fox addressed false reports that he was one of the nine people that perished in Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed the NBA legend.
Fox discussed the reaction of his family after several early reports suggested Fox was on board the chopper at the time of the crash. Initially, five people were believed dead in the wreck and it wasn’t until NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg tweeted he communicated with Fox that the NBA veteran was ruled out.
“My family went through, in the midst of all this, something that I couldn’t imagine them experiencing,” an emotional Fox said Tuesday during TNT’s NBA coverage. “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.”
Fox spent seven seasons as Bryant’s teammate with the Lakers, guiding L.A. to three NBA championships in the early 2000s. The duo remained close following Fox’s retirement from basketball in 2004.
The 50-year-old said he was talking to his daughter — who was unaware of circulating reports her father died – when his phone became inundated with calls. Distraught by the news of Bryant’s passing, Fox said he did not answer calls until he noticed close friend and basketball coach, King Rice, reaching out.
“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 said.
“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.”
Fox was part of a star-studded panel on Tuesday which included hosts Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Ernie Johnson. Dwyane Wade and Derek Fisher also made appearances to discuss Bryant’s legacy and passing.
After re-living Sunday’s traumatic experience, Fox was given a playful warning from his former teammate “Shaq.”
“I’m glad you’re alright,” O’Neal said to Fox. “But the next time I call you and you don’t call me back I’m gonna put these hands on you.”