Tim Hardaway Andrew WIggins Is Perfect For GSW Back To Finals Next Year!!!

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THE RIGHT FIT
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The Western Conference needs to enjoy Golden State's off-year while it can ... 'cause Tim Hardaway tells TMZ Sports the Warriors will be right back in the Finals -- with help from their "perfect piece!!"

It's been a rough patch, to say the least, for the Dubs, who have been without Steph Curry and Klay Thompson for most of the season.

But there's a new guy in town after shipping D'Angelo Russell to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins ... and the ex-Warrior says it was a great move for when the 2 stars get back on the court!!

"I think it was," Hardaway says. "Andrew Wiggins is gonna be real nice with them. Yes, he is."

"Perfect piece, no question!"

But is Wiggins enough to get Golden State back in the Finals?? Hardaway thinks so!!

"No question."

LeBron James Accused of Stealing Famous Slogan ... from Youth Org.

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7:01 AM PT -- LeBron's Uninterrupted has responded to the lawsuit, telling TMZ Sports ... "The complaint filed by Game Plan today is meritless and contains numerous factual inaccuracies. Uninterrupted owns prior rights in and to the 'More Than An Athlete' trademark."

A youth org. claims LeBron James straight-up jacked their "More Than An Athlete" slogan for his Uninterrupted brand ... and now they want more than $33 MIL to make things right!

Game Plan -- a Maryland based nonprofit, which guides young athletes to achieve professional success in an out of sports -- claims they've been using the slogan "I Am More Than an Athlete" since 2016 and they obtained the trademark in 2018.

The problem ... Game Plan is convinced LeBron James saw Game Plan staffers wearing "More Than An Athlete" shirts at a Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards game in 2017 and stole it for his Uninterrupted brand. In fact, the staffers even posed for a pic that day with Wizards star John Wall.

Game Plan says in their lawsuit ... "The attendance at the game gave Game Plan tremendous exposure, as it was able to gain attention from John Wall in front of his peers including the (arguably) most famous athlete in the world, as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, at the time, LeBron James."

In court docs filed by Game Plan, they claim Bron loved the phrase so much, he began using it in 2018 as a response to the infamous Laura Ingraham "Shut Up and Dribble" incident.

After the Fox News host made the comment on air, James went to social media and posted a picture of a neon light sign that read, "I Am More Than an Athlete."

Since then, Game Plan says LeBron and Uninterrupted have monetized the hell out of the slogan -- striking deals to use "I Am More Than An Athlete" with Nike, ESPN and the NBA2K video game.

Game Plan says they own the rightful trademark and are entitled to all profits that have been made from it -- seeking no less than $33 MILLION.

They're suing Uninterrupted, Nike, Disney and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.

So far, no comment from LeBron's camp.

Originally Published -- 6:25 AM PT

John Wall Gives Injury Recovery Advice ... Take It From Me!!!

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TIME AND PATIENCE

It's been nearly 14 months since John Wall has stepped foot on an NBA court ... but he tells TMZ Sports he's learned a VERY valuable lesson during his time away from the game.

The Washington Wizards superstar ruptured his Achilles back at the beginning of 2019 after falling in his D.C. home ... and has been working like crazy to get back to 100%.

We spoke with Wall about his time away from the game ... and he's got some solid advice for players in similar situations.

"I learned what not to do is not to rush back and just take my time," Wall says.

Of course, Wall has been going viral for being able to dunk in pregame warm-ups recently ... which appears to be a good sign for recovery ... but the 29-year-old makes it clear he ain't coming back 'til he's fully ready to ball.

We also asked John if he thinks the NBA has forgotten about him during his time away ... and you gotta check out his response!!

Cavs Players Trolled Beilein With 'Thug' Songs ... Before Departure

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John Beilein's brief stint as Cleveland Cavs head coach was nothing short of a dumpster fire ... and it got so bad, the players trolled the dude by referencing his infamous "thugs" comment with the locker-room music.

The 67-year-old's NBA career came to a screeching halt after just 54 games on Tuesday ... with Beilein leaving about $12 million in contract money on the table just to end his misery.

Now, details on his failure of a tenure with the Cavs are coming to the surface ... and it's uglier than imagined. Like, we knew it was bad. But, THIS BAD!?!?!

Remember, back in January ... Beilein called his players a "bunch of thugs" in a film session and later insisted he meant to say "slugs" instead. He claimed it was an innocent slip.

Beilein apologized but it seems the players didn't accept it -- with The Athletic reporting guys in charge of the team's locker-room music would play songs with the word "thug" in the lyrics whenever the coach was around.

According to the report, the "thug" playlist included tracks like "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, "Thugz Mansion" by Tupac and Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug."

Among other issues reported -- the players thought Beilein acted like a dictator, over-worked newcomers during Summer League and never really grasped the concept of what an NBA coach was expected to do.

FYI, Beilein was the head coach at the University of Michigan for years before jumping to the NBA. Unclear if he will go back to coaching at the college level again.

Now, the Cavs -- 14-40 -- will try to move on with interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff ... but it doesn't change the fact the entire franchise is flat-out irrelevant without LeBron James.

Prairie View vs. Jackson St. College Hoops Brawl Pops Off Players Suspended 2 Games

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3:44 PM PT -- The SWAC has announced the punishments following the brawl ... suspending 3 players for unsportsmanlike conduct.

2 Jackson State players -- Dontelius Ross and Khalil Spencer were suspended 2 games ... and Prarie View A&M's Darius Williams has also been handed a 2-game punishment.

“The Southwestern Athletic Conference will continue to send a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,” SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland says.

“Moving forward any future actions of this nature; that transpire at any point during an athletic contest, will result in an indefinite suspension with substantial fines/penalties to all parties involved."

"The Conference office must uphold high standards of good sportsmanship and any conduct deemed detrimental to those efforts will be handled appropriately.”

On top of the suspensions, each team has been fined $5,000.

8:09 AM PT -- SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland tells us they're "currently reviewing the footage of the incident and will take appropriate action once a thorough review is completed."

What was supposed to be a display of sportsmanship turned into an all-out BRAWL at a college basketball game in Texas ... when things got violent in the post-game handshake line!

Prairie View A&M had just defeated the Jackson State Tigers in a home game in Waller County -- but things had been chippy between the teams during regulation.

Things finally exploded in the handshake line when Jackson State's Dontelius Ross took exception with PV's Darius Williams ... who appeared to have bumped Ross during the handshakes.

Ross was PISSED and immediately tried running after Williams, but his teammates and a police officer used all of their might to hold him back.

But it didn't end there ... another fight broke out on the opposite side of the court involving other players and, again, officials raced on to the court to break it up.

It doesn't appear anyone was injured in the fracas -- but you can bet there will repercussions ... most likely suspensions to come soon.

Crazy night.

Originally Published -- 6:56 AM PT

Kobe Bryant Insane Tribute Lambo Up For Sale ... $170,000!!!

A super passionate (and rich!) Kobe Bryant fan tricked out his Lamborghini to honor the Black Mamba ... and now the guy says the amazing whip can be all yours -- if you've got around $170k!!

Joe Carbonara tells TMZ Sports he was so devastated after Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash ... he wanted to honor them with his 2015 Lamborghini Huracan.

Carbonara says he took the ride -- which used to be a generic silver color -- to X-Treme Graphics near Chicago to get the tribute art put on.

We're told the shop's owner, Steve Zielinski, loved the idea of the project so much ... he spent TWO FULL DAYS wrapping it in Lakers purple and gold vinyl.

"I had to make sure it was good and not overdone," Zielinski tells us. "And, we didn't charge for it."

The results of the work were impressive ... Kobe's numbers, pictures of Bryant and Gigi, the Mamba's logo and even the names of all nine crash victims are featured on the ride.

In fact, the job was so well done ... the Lambo -- now dubbed the Kobe24Lambo -- gained national attention when it was seen driving around NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago.

LEGENDARY WHIP

But now, Carbonara -- who was trying to unload the Lambo prior to wrapping it -- says he's willing to let a new owner enjoy the car ... saying the ride is officially up for sale with a price tag of $170k.

In the meantime, Carbonara says you might be seeing the car in music videos and at special events ... saying he's been getting requests to show off the ride EVERYWHERE!!

Dwyane Wade 'Struggled' About Going Public With Daughter's Gender Identity Story

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Dwyane Wade admits the decision to go public with his 12-year-old child's gender identity story wasn't easy -- the family "struggled" -- but they ultimately decided it was the right thing to do.

The NBA star appeared on 'GMA' and opened up about how Zaya -- who was born as a boy named Zion -- came to him and Gabrielle Union to talk about wanting to "live my truth."

"I think going forward I am ready to live my truth," Zaya told the Wades ... adding, "I want to be referenced as 'she' and 'her.' I would love for you guys to call me Zaya."

Wade says the family spent a bunch of time researching and talking to people to try to understand what Zaya was going through -- and it made the family stronger in the long run.

And, with Dwyane working with ESPN on a documentary about his own life, Wade knew he would have to decide whether to include Zaya's gender identity story in the flick ... and it wasn't an easy decision!

"I struggled on how much I wanted to talk about in the doc," Dwyane said ... "I actually didn't talk about it a lot. But, I knew if I put it in the doc at all, it would be a big conversation. "

"Yes, we understand that our daughter's 12 years old. We struggled with what people would say about a 12-year-old making a decision about her life, but we also know our child."

"So we sit back and we say. 'You know what?' As parents, it's our job to sit back and figure out and find the information that we can. And we've sat down together as a family. We've reached out to as many people as we can. We've researched as many things as we can to try to help not only our family but other people in this journey and along the way."

Julius Erving Gordon Should've Won Dunk Contest ... But It Was Super Close!!

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IT'S OKAY TO TIE
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Julius Erving's one of the GREATEST DUNKERS in the history of basketball ... and he tells TMZ Sports that Aaron Gordon deserved the dunk contest win!!

We talked to Dr. J -- who was in the building for the dunk contest -- at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. on Monday ... and we asked the hoops legend if the Orlando Magic star was robbed by the judges in Chi-town.

"I don't know if robbed is the right term, if it had ended in a tie, I don't think anybody would've been upset. But, a contest like that going into basically 2 overtimes. Third overtime. You hate to have a loser."

BUT, forced to pick a winner, Dr. J -- who won the inaugural ABA Dunk Contest in 1976 -- says Gordon's final dunk was justtttttttt a little better than Derrick Jones Jr.'s jam.

"I think [Gordon's] last dunk was cleaner. Neither one of them were 50's because they had shot their load in terms of their best stuff."

Of course, AG literally jumped over the biggest dude in the NBA -- 7'5" Boston Celtics giant Tacko Fall -- but somehow, someway, Scottie Pippen, Chadwick Boseman and Jones’ ex-teammate Dwyane Wade only gave him a 9.

Gordon missed tying Jones and forcing another round of dunks by 1 point ... and flat-out beating him by 2 points.

After the contest, Gordon -- who also took an L via a controversial decision in 2016 -- declared he'd never again compete in the dunk contest.

NBA's Antonio Davis MJ & Pippen Better Than Kobe & Shaq ... 'Shaq Can't Guard!!!'

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PASSIN' THE TORCH
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Shaquille O'Neal ain't going to like this ...

Ex-NBA stud Antonio Davis says Shaq and Kobe have NOTHING on Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen when it comes to the best duo in league history ... telling TMZ Sports it's all 'cause of Shaq's defense!

"Shaq can't come out and guard nobody!" Davis says.

The debate's been raging on for YEARS ... and when we got AD out at NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago on Saturday -- he told us there's no need for an argument anymore.

"I don't care what nobody says," Davis tells us. "Hands down. I don't care."

Of course, there's a lot of people in the hoops world that would disagree with Davis ... Shaq and Kobe won 3 titles together and both dudes have legit claims to be considered top 10 players ever.

Then again, Jordan and Scottie won 6 championships together ... and MJ is considered the game's best-ever -- so maybe Antonio's got a point?

By the way, we got Antonio's take on the NBA's G.O.A.T ... and ya gotta hear why he says it's impossible to label just one player with that title.

Kim and Kanye Courtside for Kobe Tribute ... at NBA All-Star Game

The Kobe Bryant tributes were AMAZING at the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night ... and some of the biggest stars in the world were front and center for all of the emotional moments.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West sat courtside at the United Center in Chicago -- surrounded by stars like Cardi B, Chris Tucker, Ludacris, Offset, Chance The Rapper, Chadwick Boseman and more!

There's more ... a LOT more -- Fat Joe, Bad Bunny, Ninja, Spike Lee, Jeff Ross, Common, Tiffany Haddish and Jon Stewart were all on hand to watch Team LeBron take on Team Giannis.

But, the show started BEFORE tip-off when Chicago-native Jennifer Hudson performed an incredible tribute to Kobe ... with a beautiful video montage in the background.

One of the cooler tributes at the game was a Kobe tribute video with music by Dr. Dre. The video was created by 23-year-old director Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon ... and honestly, it's pretty amazing stuff.

MAMBA FOREVER
NBA

As we previously reported, the NBA renamed the All-Star Game MVP award after Kobe ... and Kawhi Leonard became the first person to take home the Mamba-inspired honor.

After the game, Leonard told the crowd, "This one's for him."

Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26 -- along with 7 other people.

A public memorial is scheduled to take place at Staples Center in L.A. on Feb. 24.

NBA All-Star Weekend 3,000 Strippers Descend On Chicago ... Offset, Kid Capri Hosting

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The strip club cavalry has arrived in Chicago with THOUSANDS of dancers, literally, making sure NBA superstars and fans are well entertained during All-Star Weekend!!!

The good folks at Ocean Gentleman's Club, Factory and Club O tell TMZ Sports ... they've hired Last Coast Entertainment to promote events at all the clubs this weekend. We're told that means 3,000 strippers will be swarming around poles all over Chi-town.

STRIPPER STACKS
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The forecast calls for some serious rain, because we're told each club will have $450,000 in single dollar bills on deck each day for customers -- NBA and otherwise -- to spend on the dancers. The clubs are ready to bring in the Brinks trucks too, if they need even more Washingtons.

As for who's leading all this fun ... Offset will be front and center hosting an epic after-party Sunday at Ocean Gentleman's Club, following the All-Star Game. Also, Kid Capri's hosed that club's Saturday night bash.

The clubs also tell us they already have 10 tables reserved each night, exclusively for NBA ballers -- and their kitchens will be working OT to serve up lamb chops, burgers, wings and shrimp. BIG dudes have BIG appetites!

BTW, NBA All-Star Weekend is like an annual Super Bowl for the strippers ... so there's high-demand to get work in the host cities each year. We're told the dancers have to fork over $300 to $350 per night to a club just to get their high heels in the door.

Other gentlemen's clubs around Chicago -- like Scores and Rick's Cabaret -- are adopting NBA themes. Dancers will wear basketball uniforms, to start anyway, and of course, there will be VIP sections just for NBA studs.

And, get this ... one club tells us they're flying in girls from New York, Los Angeles and Miami to diversify their lineup. Now that's thoughtful!!

Rick Fox Gets Emotional Talking About Kobe

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I STILL CAN'T BELIEVE IT
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Rick Fox, like so many others, is having a hard time processing the loss of Kobe Bryant.

We got Rick at the NBA Crossover event in Chicago Saturday during NBA All-Star Weekend, and he's clearly still hurting. You'll recall his emotional words on TNT a week ago.

Rick makes it clear ... Kobe's death is a blow to so many in a very personal way, but there's also a global factor -- Kobe was a worldwide celebrity and on the precipice of starting a second chapter that could have been as awesome as his first.

Rick shared some memories of Kobe ... riding on the team bus with him as Kobe talked about his "otherworldly plans."

When our photog asks Rick what Kobe would have done over the next 20 or 30 years, you see him get visibly emotional.

Rick played for the Lakers between 1997 and 2004 and won 3 championships with the team. Kobe played from 1996 to 2016. The 2 were teammates for 8 years.

Rick's now big into e-sports and owned the Echo Fox franchise until last October.

Lou Williams Wall-to-Wall Mural of Kobe And Gigi ... In His Atlanta Home!!!

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MAMBAS IN THE MAN-CAVE
@inkbykali / @iamtayhill

Lou Williams decided to honor Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, by getting a HUGE mural in his man cave at his Atlanta home this week .. and it's pretty amazing!

TMZ Sports has learned the Los Angeles Clippers guard hit up his good friend and tattoo artist Fennell "InkByKali" Cunningham for the Mamba and Mambacita mural.

We're told because Lou and Kobe were real close, InkByKali had to make sure the mural was perfect ... so he hit up another artist, Tay Hill, to help out.

You can see in a video of the mural, obtained by TMZ Sports, the art is a HUGE painting of Kobe in his Lakers gear with Gianna in her Mamba Academy jersey. All told, we've learned the piece took 13 HOURS to paint!

"Definitely honored to have been a part of doing this mural," InkByKali tells us.

After Kobe tragically died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, Lou went on Twitter the next day and expressed how much pain he was in, saying, "Been crying on and off."

"Have random thoughts about things we spoke about then laugh. Cry again."

Lou even put out a song dedicated to the Mamba called "24" this week ... writing a caption along with the track that read, "Wrote a open letter to the homie."

Of course, Lou ain't the only NBA baller honoring the Mamba ... stars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis have gotten tribute tats -- while others in the league have been hoopin' with messages to Kobe on their sneakers.

Liziane Gutierrez Ball So Hard ... For All-Star Weekend!!!

Bikini model Liziane Gutierrez is getting out of her bubble -- ditching the glamorous life for the bump-and-grind of basketball, and she has King James on the brain ... and her cheeks.

The Brazilian poser and a gal pal had no problem choosing sides for the NBA All-Star Game, which is going down this weekend in Chicago. Liziane took on her friend in a game of hoops -- in MUCH-shorter shorts than the pros -- and just to keep it real, they made their allegiances known.

Liziane took an L on her butt for team LeBron James, while her friend's a straight G ... for Team Giannis Antetokounmpo. Those are the actual teams competing in Chi-town.

Anyway, check out the pics of their game -- it was truly a thong o' beauty. No word on who won. Luckily, we know you don't really care.

NBA Commish Adam Silver All-Star MVP Award ... Is Now Named After Late Kobe Bryant

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver is making sure Kobe Bryant goes down in history with the league right away -- renaming the All-Star MVP award after the late Laker legend.

The commish made the announcement Saturday at a press conference in front of the press, first discussing how Kobe and ex-commissioner David Stern -- who himself passed away this year -- were so much alike in their attitudes, goals and approaches to the game.

Adam says both Kobe and Stern prioritized winning -- and, often, neither of them had time for the niceties that come with fostering relationships because they were so hyper-focused.

He went on to list some of Kobe's personal achievements in the NBA -- including setting the record for 18 consecutive All-Star appearances, 4 All-Star MVP Awards and his famous Slam Dunk Contest appearance in 1997 ... for which he took home the 1st place prize.

Then came the big news ... the NBA is changing the name of All-Star MVP Award, now calling it the Kobe Bryant MVP Award. Adam says he's sure whoever wins it on Sunday after the All-Star game will be thrilled. He also noted it was just one of the ways the league would be honoring Kobe going forward -- David will also be honored in the future.

Besides the big name change, AS also said one small way the league wanted to remember Kobe and David was putting their photos on the back of media credentials this year.

Of course, Kobe's passing is still fresh and raw for so many around the league. He died last month in a helicopter crash with his daughter, Gianna, and other families as well.

Vanessa Bryant Emotional V-Day Message To Kobe ... 'Missing You So Much'

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Vanessa Bryant just shared an emotional Valentine's Day message to Kobe ... saying to the Mamba, "To my forever Valentine, I love you so much."

"Missing you so much on your favorite holiday," she said in the social media post. "Te amo per sempre."

Along with the emotional message to the Lakers legend ... Vanessa also posted a throwback photo of the two, with Lauryn Hill's famous love song "Tell Him" playing in the background.

"Kisses to you and Gigi in heaven," Vanessa said. "Happy Valentine’s Day, my babies. With all my love, your boo-boo."

Kobe -- who passed away along with his daughter, Gianna, less than 3 weeks ago in a tragic helicopter crash -- would have surely loved the message.

Remember, Bryant is a HUGE Lauryn Hill fan ... even posting a picture with the Grammy winner and Vanessa back in 2018.

"@vanessabryant surprised me with a date night to see my sister Lauryn Hill at The Hollywood Bowl," Bryant wrote at the time. "Loved catching up with her. My wife is winning the battle of best date night ideas.. FOR NOW"

A public memorial for Bryant and his daughter is set to take place at Staples Center on Feb. 24. Vanessa is expected to attend.

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