You've heard the stories about Kobe Bryant and his legendary chopper ... but former Lakers player Devin Ebanks tells TMZ Sports he NEVER saw the Mamba helicopter to practice once!!!!
Ebanks -- who spent 3 seasons with the Lake Show -- was at LAX this weekend when he dropped the bombshell ... telling us the helicopter stories are more urban legend than fact.
Guess this means Kobe was must have had to slum it to practice in one of his pedestrian cars ... like his Ferrari, Bentley or Lamborghini.
Steve Nash is a Hall-of-Famer
But It's Time to Retire
2/14/2014 6:21 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
All good things must come to an end ... including Steve Nash's career -- 'cause despite his incredible run in the NBA, Gary Payton says it's time for Steve to hang it up.
The Glove was at LAX this week when we asked about the constantly-injured Lakers star ... who's only played in 60 of the the Lakers 135 games since joining the team.
"He gettin' hurt to much," Payton says ... "I mean, when you are getting hurt that many times, you think you can play, but it don't help you ... I think he should go on a little."
Still, Payton says ... 40-year-old Nash is a legend -- "He did a great job. He'll be in the Hall of Fame. He'll be alright."
Kobe Bryant Got Hazed
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!
2/14/2014 12:55 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Kobe Bryant didn't have to go through the regular NBA hazing rituals when he was a rookie -- in fact a bunch of retired Lakers GREATS came out to initiate the Mamba including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ... so says Cedric Ceballos.
The former NBA All-Star appeared on the "TMZ Sports" TV show and told us ... back when Kobe was drafted in '96, most of the team took it easy on the guy since he was fresh out of high school ... but he definitely had to pay his dues.
"We'd make him chase balls into the stands of the huge arenas, or take bags off the plane in the freezing cold. Or we'd say, 'I need coffee from Starbucks and donuts from Krispy Kreme' -- and it'd be 2am in a town we just arrived in."
And who was behind the hazing?
Cedric says Eddie Jones used to make Kobe bring him Gatorade right before every game ... but the fun didn't stop there!
"Even the veterans who are retired ... James Worthy, Kareem, Wilt Chamberlain ... all those guys came down to give him a little bit of rookie hazing, knowing that he was going to be the great player he is."
Cedric says Kobe "understood what it was all about" and didn't remember the Mamba resisting ... but says the hazing was all about having fun -- "We don't belittle the guys."
I'm Proud My Son's a 'Rich Kid'
He's Gonna Be a Huge TV Star
2/8/2014 12:25 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Magic Johnson's son EJ is BLOWING UP as a reality star on "Rich Kids of Beverly Hills" ... and the NBA legend tells TMZ Sports he couldn't be PROUDER!!!
In fact, Magic says he thinks the shameless E! reality show will springboard EJ into a TV superstar -- and predicts it won't be long before the kid has his own show.
Magic really couldn't be a more supportive parent -- especially after the way he had EJ's back when his son revealed he's gay.
There's more .. Magic also talks about recently buying the L.A. Sparks and also takes another shot at the Lakers. Check out the clip.
Do I Look Like I'm Joking
... In This Courtside Selfie
1/29/2014 6:50 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Jack Nicholson upped the ante on duck-lip selfies by shooting his own ... of course he did it from $2500 COURTSIDE Lakers seats! Take that 25-year-old chicks.
76-year-old Jack struck the tired-ass pose with a cute blonde fan last night at Staples Center.
This was probably the closest he came to smiling last night since the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers got crushed by the Indiana Pacers 104-92.
Our best guess on Jack's thoughts during the game ... "This town team needs an enema!"
Takes MASSIVE Ring to Lakers Game
... With Bodyguards
12/26/2013 6:40 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Gabrielle Union -- the future Mrs. Dwyane Wade -- took her brand new million dollar 8.5 carat diamond ring out in public yesterday ... but not without some serious hired muscle to keep it safe.
Gabby and Ring arrived to the Staples Center in L.A. ... flanked by private security ... to watch their man dominate the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers.
Funny, Kobe knows a little something about expensive jewelry ... in fact, he may have bought the most expensive ring out of ALL the NBA players ($4 million) .. except his wasn't a "Will You Marry Me" diamond -- it was a "FORGIVE ME!" diamond.
Hey, it worked.
We Can’t Afford Technical Fouls
They’re Reeeallly Expensive
11/22/2013 12:30 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
There's a reason the L.A. Lakers have committed a total of ZERO individual technical fouls this season -- THEY DON'T COME CHEAP ... so say some of the guys on the squad.
Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks were leaving Boa Steakhouse Wednesday night (which also ain't exactly cheap) ... when they told us they're not exactly stoked about having to pay the 4-figure league fines that come with being T'd up.
For the record ...the league fines players $1,000 for their first two technical fouls, $1,500 each for the next two, and $2,000 for #s 5 and 6.
So for all the people saying the Lakers look soft this season -- you're wrong, they're just cheap.
Lamar Odom May Have Burned His Lakers Bridge
10/30/2013 12:40 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Lamar Odom may have ruined his chances of EVER returning to his beloved Los Angeles Lakers ... so says his ex coach and NBA legend Phil Jackson.
Jackson didn't mince words to TMZ when we asked if he thought Lamar would ever return to the purple and gold. He said, "I think that bridge might have been burned."
In case you didn't know, Phil is pretty tight with Lakers execs -- he lives with team Prez Jeanie Buss.
And this is interesting. Phil tells us ... he's not blaming the Kardashian family for Lamar's woes, despite a recent interview in which he hinted that Lamar would have been better off without the K-fam.
He says although the reality show was "a distraction" for Lamar, there's a benefit that outweighed the negative -- "Lamar got a family and a caring unit."
He also said he worries that Bruce Jenner is out of the picture ... because Lamar related to him as an athlete.
As for what caused Lamar to unravel, Jackson said he's been dealing with "too many personal things," although he was not specific.
Breakfast Date with Phil Jackson
10/25/2013 12:53 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Kobe Bryant has apparently forgiven Phil Jackson for calling him an insecure, sensitive sub-Jordanesque player in his book ... 'cause the two got together for breakfast this week, TMZ has learned.
We've learned ... Kobe and his former Lakers coach shared a booth at Wendy's Place in El Segundo Thursday morning ... chowing down on eggs and other breakfast-y items.
Kobe and Phil have had a complicated relationship over the years ... which Phil touched upon in his book, "Eleven Rings," which he released back in May.
In the book, Phil wrote that Michael was a better shooter, defender and overall leader than Kobe ... which some people interpreted as a slight against the Mamba.
But at breakfast yesterday, the two seemed as chummy as ever ... talking about basketball while scarfing down their meal.
So, who paid when the bill came??? The guy with the most jewelry.
Side note -- we spoke to someone who was there that day ... and when we asked how Kobe looked, we were told, "Beautiful."
Risks Most Valuable Hand
... To Pet a LION!!!
10/24/2013 4:36 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The fate of the Los Angeles Lakers rests in the hands of Kobe Bryant ... which is why it might be concerning that his hands are near the mouth of A LIVE MAN-EATING LION!!!
Kobe faced down the king of the jungle at an L.A. studio today ... during a commercial shoot for Turkish Airlines. Kobe's a celebrity spokesman for the airline.
Check out the pics above ... that's Kobe sticking his right hand (his shooting hand, mind you) directly up to the lion's mouth.
Fortunately, Kobe emerged without a scratch ... and he's lucky ... 'cause as everyone knows, big cats can be dangerous to humans. Just ask Adam Sandler ...
I'm Wearing My Ring, I'm Healthy, I Could Be a Laker
10/22/2013 12:55 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Lamar Odom aggressively wanted to talk to a photog yesterday, about life, health, basketball and marriage.
Lamar has NEVER been chatty, so this lunchtime video is pretty shocking. The photog tries to end the interview several times and Lamar actually calls him back. Among the subjects:
-- His prospects of returning to the Lakers
-- His outlook on life and death
-- His obsession with health
You gotta see it. It's as revealing as anything we've seen in a long time.
Gets Trimmed for 'Meeting Wit Lakers'
10/15/2013 5:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Lamar Odom is way beyond first impressions with the Lakers ... but, all the same, he got a fresh shave of his head for a meeting with the team on Monday ... TMZ has learned.
Lamar's barber in the Valley, a dude named Enzo, hooked up the troubled NBA star Monday morning -- and even gave LO his trademark star on the back of his head ... which he sported during past seasons with the Lakers.
Our sources tell us Lamar met with Laker execs Monday afternoon to discuss terms of a possible return. We're told things went well -- though nothing's been signed -- and that Lamar's first choice has always been to return to the Lakers.
It's pretty amazing ... a little more than a month ago Lamar was smoking crack and deep in the throes of drug addiction. But as we first reported, Odom has been adamant he can cut off his drug abuse without going to rehab.
It remains to be seen if an NBA team buys that (and we know Khloe Kardashian isn't) -- but as one source put it ... lately Lamar has sounded more like his old self.
On his Instagram, Lamar's barber wrote, "Wish em the best of luck in his meeting wit the Lakers today."
Maybe Enzo has the purple and gold touch.
Chinese BBall Superior To NBA
'They Let You Play Over There'
10/11/2013 1:25 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Kobe Bryant has Chinese envy -- at least when it comes to basketball -- claiming the rules in the Far East make it a real man’s game ... because “out here, you can’t even touch a motherf**ker.”
Kobe's diss to the NBA came during a candid moment in Vegas with Floyd Mayweather earlier this week ... when the two began talking about the differences between basketball in China vs. the NBA.
“They let you play over there,” Kobe said … adding, “out here they change the rules up and sh*t. You can’t even touch a motherf**ker. You can’t touch a n***a.”
Kinda strange coming from Kobe ... considering he has a reputation for begging NBA refs for calls.
Calls to China … weren’t made (c'mon, international calls ain't cheap!)