Rick Fox says the rumors he had died on the helicopter with Kobe Bryant Sunday "shook" his family ... with Kenny Smith saying he exploded into tears when he found out Fox was alive.
"It was hard to deal with," Fox said on TNT's "Inside the NBA" special Tuesday night. "It shook a lot of people in my life."
Shortly after Kobe's chopper went down in Calabasas this weekend ... reports began to swirl that Fox -- Bryant's ex-teammate -- was on-board with the NBA legend in the fatal crash.
Fox says the rumors turned his family upside-down ... with his best friend, Monmouth men's basketball head coach King Rice, calling him frantically to make sure he was OK.
"I said, 'I'm going to talk to my best friend' and I answered it and I said, 'Hey, man, this is crazy about Kobe,'" Fox said. "And he just was bawling."
"And I started crying. And he was like, 'You're alive!' And I'm thinking, 'Yeah, like, what do you mean?' And it was in that moment that my phone just started going."
Fox said his mom, his brother and his sister all called, adding, "Look, this has been a lot to process for all of us."
Smith said his experience with the rumors were an emotional ride as well ... and he broke down on the set talking about the relief he felt when Fox finally texted him back that he was alive.
"The race to be first and tell a story, you don't know what it does to people," Smith said.
"It's irresponsible," Fox added. "It's irresponsible."