Processing the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others on Sunday was "overwhelming" to retired NBA veteran Rick Fox, Bryant's longtime Lakers teammate. Fox's emotions intensified when some reports claimed he, too, was a victim in that accident.
On TNT's "Inside the NBA," Fox spoke about his progression from grieving to reassuring to grieving once again.
"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, and he asked by text if I had heard of the story," Fox recalled on Tuesday's Staples Center broadcast. "And I said, 'Oh the shoes that Kobe gave LeBron, and Kobe passed him last night [for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list].' And he said, 'No.' He said, 'This is -- you need to sit down.' And he texted me the article, and I just -- I went into full-blown denial."
Fox's daughter, Sasha Gabriella, called shortly after. Fox thought she wanted to vent about Bryant. Sasha Gabriella, though, wanted confirmation that her "greatest fear" -- learning about one of her parents' deaths via social media -- didn't come true.
As Fox consoled his daughter, his phone kept ringing. Constantly.
Fox's family and friends -- including Monmouth basketball coach King Rice -- wanted to hear his voice, his breathing, his assurance that everything would be OK. So, Fox set aside his own pain, returning their calls to provide it.
"My family went through, in the midst of all this, something I couldn't have imagined them experiencing," Fox said.
Fox lost a beloved friend in Bryant, who he won three consecutive NBA championships with from 2000-2002. Having his own mortality in question, however, brought the tragedy even closer to home.
"This has been a lot for all of us to process, quite frankly," Fox said, exhaling deeply afterward. "We're blessed to have had the time we had with Kobe. The 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."