On Tuesday evening, there was a special broadcast of the popular show Inside the NBA with Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley on TNT. Instead of focusing on their usual analysis of the games viewers have been watching and their comical banter with one another, it was a somber show to pay tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
People who knew and played with Bryant were invited on the show to share their memories of him, as well as their pain following the news that he and daughter Gianna, 13, were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday. As we would later find out, there were nine people in total who perished, not the five that we initially heard. And as for those on the plane, there were early inaccurate reports following the news of Kobe that speculated his wife Vanessa and friend and former teammate Rick Fox were in the chopper as well. Fox was one of the people invited to speak on Bryant during last night’s Inside the NBA.
When asked what it was like to hear people speculating that he had died while simultaneously going through a state of grief over the news of his good friend, Fox said it was a horrific experience that he handled “moment by moment.”
“I don’t wish it on anyone,” he said. “This moment has been overwhelming for all of us. First and foremost, to the families that were lost, obviously, their lives have been turned upside down. To our brother Kobe and his family, Vanessa, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, we send our prayers and condolences. My family went through, in the midst of all of this, something I couldn’t imagine them experiencing.”
Fox said he was brought the news in the morning by a colleague about Bryant and assumed it was about LeBron James passing his scoring record the night before. When he saw what it was actually about, he said he went into denial before his children confirmed they’d heard the same news of the crash.
“One of my daughter’s greatest fears is finding out one of her parents would be lost through social media instead of through a loved one or a family member. She fortunately called me and we were just talking and crying about the news of Kobe and my son [called],” he said. “I was talking to my kids and then the phone just started going off. 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 wasn’t aware that somehow his name was thrown into the mix as someone possibly on board the helicopter. Along with Kobe’s name and tributes to the Oscar winner starting to pour in, some were also coming in for him on Twitter, too. His best friend, college basketball coach King Rice, was one of many told that Fox may have been on the helicopter. Rice frantically began calling Fox, who was initially ignoring the messages to focus on his kids. However, once the former Lakers star realized his friend was calling nonstop, he answered.
“I said, ‘Hey, man, this is crazy about Kobe,’ and he just was balling,” he recounted. “I started crying and he said, ‘You’re alive!’ And I’m thinking, well yeah, what do you mean? It was in that moment that my phone just started going and my mom, and my sister and my brother.”
Eventually, Fox’s lawyer, as well as some family, including Lion Babe singer and stepdaughter Jillian Hervey, publicly shut down claims that Fox was involved.
“This has been a lot to process for all of us,” he said. “We’re blessed to have had the time we had with Kobe. A city is mourning, a family is mourning, we’re all mourning, and I’m glad that’s over with, but it was hard to deal with because it shook a lot of people in my life.”