Rick Fox Says False Rumors He Died in Kobe Bryant Crash 'Shook a Lot of People in My Life'

Former NBA star Rick Fox has spoke of the anguish his family experienced after rumors circulated he was among the victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant.

The five-time NBA champion died on Sunday morning when the helicopter he was flying in crashed in Calabasas, California, northwest of Los Angeles.

Bryant's 13-year-old Gianna and the other seven people that were onboard also all perished in the crash.

Fox, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Bryant for seven seasons, was rumored to be among those on board.

"This has been a lot to process for all of us," the 50-year-old said, while speaking during a special segment of Inside the NBA on TNT on Tuesday night, recorded on the Staples Center floor.

"I'm glad that's over with, but it was hard to deal with because it shook a lot of people in my life."

Initial reports suggested Fox, who spent 13 seasons in the NBA with the Boston Celtics and the Lakers, had been on board the helicopter with his former teammate.

Fox only learned of Bryant's death by a text he received from a friend on Sunday morning and was in a state of "full-blown denial" in the immediate aftermath.

However, he was completely unaware false rumors of his own death were spreading swiftly on social media.

"My family went through, in the midst of all this [Bryant's death] something that I couldn't imagine them experiencing," the 50-year-old said.

It was only while speaking to his kids about the tragedy that had just unfolded that three-time NBA champion began sensing something was wrong, as he started receiving phone call after phone call.

He initially ignored them assuming they were from friends wanting to talk about Bryant, as he opted to "be with my kids and my family" instead.

It was only until King Rice, Fox's best friend and the current head coach of Monmouth University, called him repeatedly that he decided to answer.

"I'm seeing King's number repeatedly going and going and going, and I think he's worried about me," he 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."

Once Rice explained that someone had told him he may have been on the helicopter, Fox immediately realized the nature of the countless calls he had ignored.

"I started crying," he recalled.

"And he was like, 'You're alive!' And I was like, 'Well, yeah. Like 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."

Earlier in the show, Shaquille O'Neal broke down in tears as he admitted he still could not comprehend the enormity of the tragedy.

"I haven't felt a pain that sharp in a while," the four-time NBA champion, who lost his sister, Ayesha Harrison-Jex, to cancer last October, said.

"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 [...]

"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."

O'Neal won three of his four NBA titles alongside Bryant, with the duo sweeping everything aside between 2000 and 2002.

The relationship between the two superstars broke down and O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2004, but off the court mutual respect and friendship remained largely intact.

"Our names will be attached together for what we did," the 15-time All-Star continued.

"People always ask about our relationship, and I tell them it's just like me and Charles [Barkley]. You got two strong-minded people that are going to get it done that way [...] going to say certain things, but the respect will never be lost."

Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox, Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (L) laughs on the bench with teammate Rick Fox during the fourth quarter of a NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California 28 March 2003. Bryant scored 55 points as the Lakers won 108-94 agains the Washington Wizards. Gerard Burkhart/AFP/Getty