The five-time NBA champion and his 13-year-old Gianna were among the other seven people on board who all perished in the accident on Sunday.
It was initially reported that Fox, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Bryant for seven seasons, was among those on board.
“This has been a lot to process for all of us,” Fox said during a segment of “Inside the NBA” on TNT on Tuesday. “I’m glad that’s over with, but it was hard to deal with because it shook a lot of people in my life.”
OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Coronavirus Has Folks Fashioning Makeshift Protective Gear and Trying to Resell Used Masks
He added, “I don’t wish it on anyone. 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 says he learned of Bryant’s death via text from a friend, and was completely unaware that reports of his own death were spreading on social media.
It was only until his best friend King Rice, current head coach of Monmouth University, called him repeatedly to inform him of the false reports.
Rice explained that someone told him Fox had been on the helicopter with Bryant.
“I started crying,” he recalled.
“I’m seeing King’s number repeatedly going and going and going, and I think he’s worried about me,” Fox said.
“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.”
“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.”
Earlier in the show, Shaquille O’Neal broke down in tears over the tragedy.
“I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” said the four-time NBA champion. “I can never imagine nothing like that. I have never seen anything like this. All the basketball idols I grew up, I see them, they’re old […]
He added, “The fact that we lost probably the world’s greatest Laker, world’s greatest basketball player […] people say take your time and get better. But it’s going to be hard for me.”
Watch him tell it via the clip below, and hear more from Rick Fox via the player above.