The L.A. Clippers are one step closer to getting their sponsors back -- with one major former backer telling TMZ Sports it's open to returning now that a judge has cleared the path for Steve Ballmer to take over the team.
We spoke to reps for the Chumash Casino who tell us they were following the case closely and are "pleased with the ruling" which will allow Shelly Sterling to sell the team to the former Microsoft CEO.
As a result of the ruling, the Chumash rep says they are now "open to discussing future partnership possibilities with the L.A. Clippers family and its new ownership."
As we previously reported, the Chumash -- along with Carmax, State Farm and a slew of other Clippers sponsors -- pulled their deals with the team in the wake of Donald Sterling's racist comments about black fans.
We spoke to several of the other sponsors -- all of which sounded encouraged about the new Clippers ownership, but wouldn't say if they were planning on getting back into business with the team.
My Bruce Lee Poster's Being Held Hostage
... By Auction House
7/29/2014 5:26 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is pissed ... claiming in a lawsuit that a famous Beverly Hills auction house has 152 pieces of his treasured memorabilia ... including a Bruce Lee poster ... and they refuse to give it back.
KAJ is suing Julien's Auction House -- the same people who have auctioned several iconic Michael Jackson items over the years ... and Marilyn Monroe's divorce papers from Joe DiMaggio.
Long story short ... Kareem claims he got into business with Julien's back in 2012 -- initially agreeing to let them sell 400 items ... but the deal went south when Kareem didn't want to part with certain things that had sentimental value.
A legal war ensued -- and Kareem admits Julien's was awarded monetary damages -- but claims the auction house is holding his property "hostage" until they get paid.
The items involved are from several periods in Kareem's life ... including:
-- An engraved KAJ tea set
-- A McDonald's "Top Faces of Black History" Award
-- Signed "Game of Death" poster (the movie he did with Bruce Lee)
-- A Stetson black suede hat
-- 5 pairs of Lakers sweatpants
-- Personalized L.A. Kings jersey
-- A "Fletch" script from 1984
-- A custom made rocking chair
... and a special Kareem Abdul-Jabbar snowboard
7:45 PM PT -- We spoke to lawyers for the auction house who told us, "The claim that these items are being held hostage is absolutely false."
They explain, "Julien’s Auctions recently prevailed in an arbitration against one of Mr. Jabbar’s companies, KAJ Lifetime Retirement Collection LLC. That company, not Mr. Jabbar, entered into a valid consignment agreement for the items at issue."
"The arbitrator found that the consignment agreement was valid. Julien’s Auctions vigorously disputes Mr. Jabbar’s contentions."
UCLA Athletic Center
In Massive Water Main Break
7/29/2014 4:50 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
UCLA is virtually underwater ... the result of a massive water main break on campus -- and the athletic training center is getting hit HARD.
TMZ Sports obtained footage ... showing the water rushing in beside a mural that features several UCLA athletic greats.
The water main ruptured around 4pm ... and water is shooting out like a volcano.
In fact, it's so bad officials shut down Sunset Blvd. and firefighters were helping stranded motorists.
Besides the athletic training center, the soccer field is also under water ... and we're told there's water all over the basketball court.
Meanwhile, all is calm at USC.
Stephen A. Smith
SUSPENDED by ESPN
For Domestic Violence Remarks
7/29/2014 1:45 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
ESPN is yanking Stephen A. Smith off the air -- suspending him for the inflammatory comments he made about women and domestic violence last week.
The network says Smith will not appear on his show "First Take" or on ESPN Radio until next Wednesday. During a discussion about Ray Rice's suspension, Stephen A. said he would tell women to make sure they're not doing anything "to provoke wrong actions" ... in addition to telling men what NOT to do.
This morning on "First Take" Smith apologized -- and ESPN released a statement, saying ... “We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic. Stephen’s comments last Friday do not reflect our company’s point of view."
The network continued ... "As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.”
Smith's comments also infuriated fellow ESPN anchor Michelle Beadle. She's yet to react to his suspension.
Soccer Star Carlos Tevez
Stepfather Returned After Kidnapping
... Reports of Ransom Payment
7/29/2014 1:27 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The stepfather of Argentinian soccer superstar Carlos Tevez has been found -- and is in "good shape" -- after he was kidnapped in Tevez's home country ... with reports saying Carlos paid a ransom to get him back.
A lawyer for Carlos' family told media outlets in Argentina that the soccer player's stepfather was kidnapped early Tuesday and was held for 8 hours before he was returned.
According to the BBC, Tevez's stepfather was driving his car about 19 miles outside of Buenos Aires when he was abducted by a group of men.
There are reports out of Argentina that Carlos paid a ransom to get his stepfather back -- with some media outlets saying it was as low as $5k and as high as $400k -- but Carlos' lawyer has not confirmed if the reports are true.
Carlos -- who plays for the Italian club team Juventus -- has been granted time off to be with his family in the wake of the incident.
Story developing ...
Runnin With The Royals
... In Glasgow
7/29/2014 12:14 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
How does Usain Bolt take advantage of being the fastest human of all time? By hanging out with some of the richest human beings of all time -- the British royal family.
Bolt is in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games to dominate some less fast people ... but the guy stopped everything to have a quick chat with Prince William, Prince Harry and Princess Kate.
Usain and Harry seemed to be getting along great -- and it's probably obvious why ... they both have a solid reputation for partying!!
Harry's raged all over the world ... most famously in Vegas where he played some naked billiards with some hot chicks.
And Usain's logged some quality partying miles too -- pounding Patron on the beach, daggering in nightclubs and even hollering at Rihanna!!
Seriously, these guys could be BFFs.
NFL Star John Abraham
DUI Arrest While Leaving Strip Club
... at 4:00 PM!!!
7/29/2014 10:39 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The Arizona Cardinals linebacker was popped on June 29th in Dekalb County ... when cops say they saw a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road with Abraham asleep at the wheel.
NFL star John Abraham was leaving the Pink Pony strip club -- AT 4PM -- when he was arrested for DUI in Georgia ... this according to a police report obtained by TMZ Sports.
Cops say they pounded on the doors and screamed at Abraham for several minutes before he woke up -- and when he did come to, they immediately smelled booze on his breath.
Cops say, "He appeared confused and rambled while speaking."
Then there's this ... "Abraham stated he was coming from the Pink Pony, a strip club and bar" -- and told the cops he only had two drinks while inside.
Did we mention cops say this all went down at 4 IN THE AFTERNOON?!
Cops say Abraham admitted that he didn't feel safe on the road -- and when asked, said he was NOT sick or on any type of medication.
According to the report, Abraham bombed several field sobriety tests -- including the alphabet -- but declined to take a breathalyzer test.
Cops arrested the 36-year-old -- but he was too big to seatbelt in the squad car.
FYI -- he's listed in the police report as 6'4", 225 pounds.
Abraham was ultimately charged with DUI and improper stopping in the roadway.
Cops Capture Aunt's Alleged Killer
... Thanks to Citizen's Tip
7/29/2014 10:28 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
12:10 PM PT -- Matt Barnes tells TMZ Sports ... "We are so grateful to everyone who helped us -- from spreading the word thru social media to calling the Sacremento PD with your citizen tips."
He adds, "It was a citizen tip that led police to Michael Williams' very location late this morning. Thank you again for allowing me to be my auntie's voice and to help bring this suspect in. Also, thank you to the Sac PD!"
The man suspected of murdering Matt Barnes' aunt has been CAPTURED by police in Sacramento ... and officials say it's all thanks to a concerned citizen who tipped off the cops.
As we previously reported, the L.A. Clippers star went to social media and begged his fans to be on the lookout for Michael Williams -- the estranged ex-husband of the victim.
Cops believe Williams is a transient and the victim (Matt's aunt) was going to visit him when he snapped and stabbed her to death on the streets of Sacramento on July 8th.
Now, the Sacramento PD has confirmed ... "Michael Williams, suspect in the 24th street homicide, is in police custody thanks to a citizen tip. He was located in the Sacramento area."
HE'S A KEEPER
Soccer Star Inks TV Deal with NBC
7/29/2014 10:09 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Tim Howard's stock is still on the rise -- 'cause the Team USA goalkeeper just signed a multi-year deal to be a soccer analyst for NBC Sports ... officials confirm.
Howard did 6 games with NBC Sports last year ... and after he crushed it at World Cup, they wanted to lock the guy up in a long-term contract hoping he can use his newfound starpower to draw Americans into soccer coverage.
Tim will cover up to 10 Premier League games for NBC Sports -- and the network says it will work around his playing obligations with his English club team, Everton.
In the meantime, Tim's been killing it in the United States -- getting everything from magazine covers to smokin' hot blondes.
Brazil been berry berry good to him.
Trolls Floyd Mayweather
Nelly Stole Your Chick!!
7/29/2014 8:07 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
50 Cent is talkin' some SERIOUS SMACK to Floyd Mayweather ... harassing the boxer over the fact Nelly is dating Floyd's ex-GF ... and claiming the rapper "really took your lady."
For the record, 50 and Floyd used to be tight -- super tight -- but they had a bad falling out ... and now the rapper is trashing his former friend all over social media.
It started when 50 posted a pic of Floyd's ex-GF Shantel Jackson -- writing, "CHAMP I ain't gonna lie this motherf**ker bad. You need to start operation GET THE B*TCH BACK. Right now!!!"
Then he fired another shot -- posting a pic of Miss Jackson with her boyfriend Nelly ... and added the caption, "Nelly put this up @floydmayweather DAMN da n**ga really took your lady Champ."
So far, Mayweather has yet to respond -- but you gotta imagine, he ain't happy.
U.S. Sprinter Torrin Lawrence
911 Before Fatal Crash
'Help Is On the Way'
7/29/2014 7:43 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
TMZ Sports has obtained the 911 calls placed by Team USA sprinter Torrin Lawrence moments before he was killed in a big rig crash ... in which he calmly explained that his car had spun out on the highway and he needed help.
During the call, Lawrence couldn't have been nicer -- telling the operator he was on his way home to Florida when his Ford Taurus blew a tire and got stuck in the middle of Interstate 75.
The operator tells Lawrence that help is on the way.
Moments later, a big rig smashed into the Ford -- which then struck Lawrence who was still waiting near the vehicle. Lawrence was killed in the collision.
He was 25.
Porn Star Skin Diamond
Rejects U.S. Olympian
... 'He's Cute Though'
7/29/2014 6:24 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Bad news for U.S. Olympic sprinter Josh Mance -- the porn star of your dreams isn't interested in a relationship ... at least not right now.
TMZ Sports spoke with Skin Diamond -- star of "Weapons of Ass Destruction 7" -- who tells us she watched the video of Josh asking her out on a date this weekend ... and was flattered ... but she's sorta in a relationship already.
But there's GOOD NEWS too -- Skin says she thinks Josh is "cute" and would consider going out with the guy in the future ... but notes, "He'd really have to do something wild to get my attention."
"I'm hard to please."
Will Josh accept the challenge? Will he move on instead? Will he just find more Skin Diamond videos on the Internet and pretend he's in a relationship with her?
We're gonna reach out to Josh -- stay tuned!