The L.A. Lakers 14k gold & diamond championship ring that Kobe Bryant gifted to his father just hit the auction block and it's expected to bring in a QUARTER-MIL!!
Here's the deal ... 20 years ago -- following Los Angeles' title-winning '99-'00 season -- Mamba bought 2 additional rings and gifted them to his parents, Pamela and Joe "Jellybean" Bryant.
The rings are IDENTICAL to the bling Kobe, Shaq, and the rest of the Lakers squad received.
We're talking real gold and 40 diamonds on each massive ring.
FYI, Pamela and Joe sold the rings -- along with other memorabilia -- back in 2013 for a total of $280,000.
And, get this, there's more awesome Kobe swag for sale:
- Kobe Bryant worn and signed cast from when he broke his wrist during the preseason in 1999. Expected to bring in about $20k.
- A 1996-1997 Topps Chrome Refractors Kobe Bryant rookie card (a very rare card). Expected to go for around $75k.
The market for Kobe collectibles has always been high -- but right now, enthusiasts are clearly motivated and willing to shell out the big bucks to have something special in their collections to remember the NBA legend.
Ex-NBA star Shawn Marion says the LAST thing players should do is sit out the 2020 season ... saying sitting out will diminish their chances at making a bigger difference in the fight against racism.
Superstars like Kyrie Irving have expressed their uncertainty over restarting the season in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement ... with the Nets star saying players' focus should be on fighting for social justice.
Ex-NBAer Stephen Jackson -- who was friends with George Floyd -- sided with Kyrie ... saying, "now ain't the time to be playing basketball, y'all."
But, the Matrix disagrees with the idea of sitting out ... saying the biggest platform to fight for social justice is on the NBA stage.
"In order for you to advocate and go out here and show what you're fighting for and the causes, you need to be on TV," Marion says.
"Social media is a great platform, but TV is a bigger platform because you can post whatever you post on TV, you can post to your social media platform."
"So, with the season resuming, it adds to that cause."
Matrix -- who acknowledges Uncle Drew has a valid point -- says players will be able to speak out in interviews and press conferences ... which brings a much bigger audience than a Twitter account.
But, as for sitting? -- "I don't agree with that."
"What is sitting out, boycotting, not playing the season -- what is that gonna accomplish really?"
Marion says the most effective way to make a change is economically ... and that starts with bringing ball back in July.
"Dear Whore ... "
That's how it began -- a disgusting piece of hate mail some racist coward sent to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss -- and now she's calling him out publicly.
"After 60 years as a huge Lakers fan, I now say to hell with the overpaid n***** traitors and the NBA."
"Go to hell and join **** Kobe Bryant."
The letter was signed by a man named Joe.
Jeanie says she thought a lot about what to do with the letter after receiving it on Monday -- but ultimately decided to post it on social media "so that everyone can see the hate is real and living out there."
"This is happening in our world TODAY. It's real and it exists."
Buss also posted a message to Joe ...
"Did sending this letter make you feel better? Really all you did was waste your time, and energy and your postage stamp. (But thank you for including your return home address) Why don’t you look in the mirror and see your ugliness because I refuse to."
Jeanie says she's received similar letters over the years and always thought it was best to just ignore the haters -- "but not anymore."
"On this day, Juneteenth, I ask my white friends to join together, acknowledge the racism that exists in our country and around the world, and pledge to stop ignoring it. We all must do better."
Jeanie's post is already resonating with LeBron James -- who showed his support for Buss on Instagram.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter says his father has been released from custody in Turkey -- 7 years after he was "wrongfully" arrested.
For years, Enes has said officials in his home country have been going after his dad Mehmet Kanter because Enes has been publicly critical of the Turkish government -- particularly, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Back in 2017, Enes explained ... "The police raided our home in Istanbul, something that is happening to many innocent families across Turkey just because they are members of Hizmet, inspired by Scholar, Fethullah Gulen."
"My father is arrested because of my outspoken criticism of the ruling party. He may get tortured for simply being my family member."
In fact, Enes has been a wanted man himself in Turkey -- the government accused him of being a member of an armed anti-government terrorist organization, which Enes has adamantly denied.
But, some good news ... Enes says his dad is now free.
"Wow! I could cry. Today I found out that 7 years after arresting my dad, taking him through a Kangaroo court and accusing him of being a criminal just because he is my dad. MY DAD HAS BEEN RELEASED!"
Enes explained, "This is due to the pressure we have put on the Turkish regime."
"They no longer could keep him from his freedom because of the spotlight that we all put on this case! However! He is just one person, there are still tens of thousands of people wrongfully in jail in Turkey. I will not forget you, we will not forget you!"
Kanter continued, "This proves that the voice of the people will always push Dictators to do the right thing in the end. Don't be scared to stand for what is right, always and always, Stand for FREEDOM Stand for DEMOCRACY Stand for HUMAN RIGHTS."
The SEC wants Mississippi to change its state flag ASAP ... and if it refuses -- the conference's commish is threatening to pull all future titles games out of the state.
SEC honcho Greg Sankey made the announcement Thursday ... saying "it is past time" government officials pull the plug on a flag that features prominent ties to the Confederacy.
"Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all," Sankey said.
"In the event there is no change, there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the flag is changed."
Of course, Sankey's press on Mississippi lawmakers is just the latest in a long line of efforts from Americans to cut ties with its Confederacy past.
For their part, SEC programs Mississippi State Univ. (NFL star Dak Prescott's alma mater) and Ole Miss are backing their conference's leader in the fight against the flag.
"Since 2015, our Student Association, Robert Holland Faculty Senate and university administration have been firmly on record in support of changing the state flag," Miss. St. President Mark E. Keenum said.
"I have reiterated that view to our state's leaders on multiple occasions, including during face-to-face discussions in recent days and hours."
Added Ole Miss leadership, "Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us."
Mark Cuban has changed his tune -- saying he no longer "expects" his Mavs players to stand for the national anthem ... and he's even considering kneeling with them.
"If [Dallas Mavericks players] were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I'd be proud of them," Cuban said Thursday on "Outside the Lines" ... "Hopefully I'd join them."
Remember, back in 2017 ... Cuban said while he respects people who speak out civilly, he "expects" his players to stand for the anthem with their hands over their hearts.
So, why the change of heart from the Mavs owner in 2020?
"Because I think we've learned a lot since 2017. I think we've evolved as a country," Cuban explained.
"And, this is really a unique point in time where we can grow as a society, we can grow as a country and become far more inclusive."
Current NBA rules state that players and coaches must stand for the national anthem … but Cuban thinks it's time for a change.
When the NBA season does resume next month, Cuban says he hopes league officials will NOT punish players for whatever demonstrations they have in mind.
"Hopefully, we'll allow players to do what's in their heart. Whether it's holding their arm up in the air, whether it's taking a knee, whatever it is, I don't think this is an issue of respect or disrespect to the flag or to the anthem or to our country."
"I think this is more a reflection of our players' commitment to this country and the fact that it's so important to them that they're willing to say what's in their heart and do what they think is right."
Ultimately, Cuban says he'll defer to NBA commish Adam Silver -- but notes, "My hope is we'll let the players do exactly what they think is the right thing to do."
11:38 AM PT -- TMZ Sports spoke with Montgomery ... and she elaborated on her decision to sit out ... calling it a "leap of faith."
"I'm not breaking up with basketball, it's just pausing things because, right now, we can all see something's happening."
"Something's happening in America, something's happening all over. So, I wanna be a part of that something."
Montgomery added ... "It's just not about basketball right now. The people that are gonna go play that's fine, but for me, my heart is somewhere else. So, that's where I'm gonna go."
WNBA star Renee Montgomery will NOT be taking the court when the 2020 season returns in July ... saying she's going to use her time to fight for social justice instead.
Montgomery -- the 4th overall pick out of UConn in 2009 -- made the announcement on Twitter early Thursday ... deciding her services are needed elsewhere.
"After much thought, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season," the Atlanta Dream guard said. "There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community."
"Social justice reform isn’t going to happen overnight but I do feel that now is the time and Moments equal Momentum. Lets keep it going!"
Montgomery joins superstar Maya Moore, who temporarily left the game to help fight for justice for Jonathan Irons ... a 39-year-old man she believes is wrongfully convicted of burglary and assaulting a homeowner with a gun when he was 16.
Dream coach Nicki Collen released a statement supporting Montgomery's decision, saying, "While I am saddened Renee will not be in a Dream uniform this summer, I am incredibly proud of her passion for her foundation, her outreach in the community and her chance to impact the Black Lives Matter movement with her platform as a WNBA athlete."
Originally Published -- 9:51 AM PT
Vanessa Bryant is rallying politicians to get behind the "Kobe and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act" ... a bill outlining safety measures she claims will "save many lives."
The KGBHSA was formally introduced by lawmakers on Thursday -- and would require choppers that carry 6 or more people to contain important safety equipment including a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder.
Vanessa immediately threw her support behind the bill -- saying, "I strongly urge that the United States Congress pass a federal law that would improve the safety of helicopters operating in this country."
"I believe there is a chance that Kobe and Gianna would still be alive today if their helicopter had been equipped with the safety equipment required by this pending federal legislation."
She added, "I believe that these safety measures will save many lives."
"As passengers traveling on aircrafts we assume that proper safety measures are in order to prevent accidents from happening before we fly. It's unfortunate that this is not the case and aircraft companies must do their part to protect lives."
As we previously reported, officials believe the pilot might've been disoriented by the thick fog in the area that day.
Vanessa is also pushing for the helicopter industry to "consider renaming the black box to Mamba 8 Box in honor of the 3 young Mamba team players, the 2 Mamba coaches and the 3 Mamba parents onboard, equaling 8."
Story developing ...
Isaiah "J.R." Rider says UNLV's 'Hey Reb!' statue -- with ties to the Confederacy -- had to be removed ... telling TMZ Sports he's proud his alma mater "did the right thing."
Rider was an absolute beast at University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the early '90s... and was named an All-American in 1993. J.R. was the 5th overall pick in the NBA Draft.
We asked the former superstar hooper how he felt about UNLV yanking the popular giant bronze statue from the place it sat for years on campus.
"I'm proud. I think it's the right thing to do personally," Rider tells us, continuing ... "I think it was well done, on time, no need to delay, no need to think about it."
The former UNLV star kept it real when asked how he felt about the statue (and Runnin' Rebel mascot) when he was playing ball for the university ... saying he didn't know about all the baggage associated with the Rebel.
"Honestly, in school, I wasn't aware. I wasn't as conscious as I am now, as woke as I am now, as well-read as I am now."
But, Rider says after school he became educated on the issue ... and realized the name and statue were offensive.
"At the time at UNLV, no it didn't bother me at all. I was a 'Runnin' Rebel.' It didn't bother me at all but later in life, as I learned certain things, like the Redskins mascot, I started to have a problem with that for sure."
FYI, the "Rebel" was originally named after a Confederate general named Beauregard ... who ordered the Civil War's first gunshots, according to a Change.org petition demanding UNLV change the current mascot.
We also asked Rider what he'd say to UNLV fans who have lived-and-died with the "Runnin' Rebels" teams for years ... and are kinda bummed to see the school lose that identity.
"I would say to my people, my 'Runnin' Rebels' out there, that look, we're UNLV for life. When we talk, I always say UNLV. I never say 'Runnin' Rebel.' Not only because I don't really like it but I'm UNLV and we are UNLV for life and that doesn't change."
"We're UNLV Runnin', we're gonna drop the last part!"
Kobe Bryant's helicopter pilot was most likely severely disoriented by fog seconds before slamming into a hillside in January -- that's what federal investigators are now saying.
In new documents released Wednesday ... NTSB officials say they have evidence showing Ara Zobayan thought he was ascending when the chopper was actually going downward.
In the docs, investigators claim moments before the crash ... Zobayan told air traffic control he was "climbing to four thousand," and air traffic control asked him what he intended to do once he got to that altitude.
The NTSB says Zobayan never responded -- he had crashed by that point. Interestingly, according to the docs, the helicopter was actually descending rapidly at the time Zobayan said he was climbing.
Investigators add they believe "the pilot could have misperceived both pitch and roll angles" due to the dense fog in the area.
As we previously reported, Zobayan, Bryant and seven others on board hit the the ground at 184 MPH ... instantly killing everybody.
Autopsy results showed Zobayan was NOT high on alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash ... and in the new docs, investigators say Zobayan's girlfriend told them he was in great shape before the accident.
Various pilots have said Zobayan should not have been flying at such a high rate of speed in blinding fog.
It should be noted, investigators did NOT reveal an official conclusion on the cause of the crash. A final NTSB report with that information is expected to be released later.
"If you take Kyrie Irving's brain and put it in a bird right now ... it's going to fly backwards."
If you missed it, Kyrie said he wanted his league to be done with the 2020 season already so its players could keep the spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement.
But, Perkins called BS on that on ESPN's "Get Up" Tuesday ... saying he believes Irving took the stance because the NBA wouldn't allow him to be a bystander in the Florida bubble as an injured player.
Although, Perkins said he'd give Kyrie the benefit of the doubt ... but still blasted him for putting the idea out there without thinking two steps ahead.
"What is the plan after that? He didn't have one!" Perkins said. "So once again, that showed his lack of leadership."
Kendrick says he believes Kyrie has taken away from the BLM movement with his statements ... going scorched-earth on the former champ in a nearly three-minute rant.
"Kyrie Irving, right now, you are the distraction!" Perkins said. "You're distracting the whole situation. It's crazy to me."
Kendrick says if Kyrie really felt passionate about all of this, he should have contacted the proper NBPA reps and developed a thoughtful plan instead.
"It makes zero sense," Perkins said. "And I totally disagree with Kyrie Irving."
For the NBA players' part, they have until June 24 to figure out if they're in or out on finishing the season in Florida later this summer.
One of the last Chicago Bulls jerseys Michael Jordan's ever rocked is about to hit the auction block ... and is expected to sell for half a MILLION dollars!!
The threads are from the '97-'98 Eastern Conference Finals -- MJ's last season with Chicago -- when his Bulls squad battled Reggie Miller's Indiana Pacers.
His Airness wore the jersey during game 3 AND 4 of the series ... May 23 and May 25, 1998. Jordan dropped 30 and 28 points ... but the Bulls took 2 L's -- tying the series at 2 games apiece.
Chicago ended up winning the series in a nail-biting 7 games ... regarded as one of the toughest playoff series throughout the Bulls' 6-championship run.
The super-rare jersey is about to hit the auction block at Goldin Auctions ... and GA believes it will sell for around $500k!
"We expect this to set the all-time record for most valuable Jordan Jersey ever sold,” Ken Goldin tells TMZ Sports.
The rest is history ... the Bulls 3-peated for a 2nd time and Michael retired from basketball.
22 years later, you can own a piece of that history ... IF you're rich enough.
The NBA is looking to hook players UP when the season picks up in Orlando next month ... with the Disney World "bubble" reportedly featuring DJ sets, ping-pong, movies, barbers, billiards and the whole VIP treatment.
The details on the living arrangements are trickling out courtesy of Shams Charania ... and it sounds like the Association is pulling out all the stops to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for its players.
The athletes will have their own lounge to be able to chill, watch TV or play NBA 2K20 and other games ... as well as a pool, mani-pedis and other options from the comfort of their hotels.
Other entertainment will include movies, lawn games, pool, and more ... as well as the option to attend other NBA games going on in Orlando.
As for the hotels, the teams will be split up between the Gran Destino, Grand Floridian and the Yacht Club based on seeding.
And, if any player isn't into the whole "bubble" idea, the league says they have until June 24 to back out without punishment.
Unfortunately for Michael Jordan, size DOES matter when you're in a fishing tournament ... 'cause His Airness finished 2nd to last on the leaderboard after catching a big ass blue marlin last week.
As we previously reported .. MJ's Catch 23 boat caught a 442.3-pound fish in the 62nd Annual Big Rock Tournament in Morehead City, NC.
The haul was good enough for 5th place at the time ... but as it turns out, some of the other boats in the tourney were able to come through in the clutch during the remaining days of the competition ... and MJ's fish fell down the charts.
The winning boat -- the Pelagic Hunter II -- came in first after reeling in a 495.2-pound blue marlin.
There's a silver lining ... despite finishing 9th, MJ's boat beat last place on the leaderboard by 23.3 pounds.
Overall, there were 205 boats in the tournament ... with $3,352,475 going out to the biggest winners.
It's a big improvement for MJ ... who's left fishing tournaments empty-handed in the past.
You'll get 'em next time, Mike!!
A LeBron James signed rookie card -- the holy grail of modern trading cards -- just hit the auction block ... and is expected to rake in OVER $1 MILLION!!
The LBJ 2003-2004 Upper Deck Exquisite card is 1 of only 23 produced (it's numbered 14 out of 23) ... and is arguably the most desirable and valuable card in the world.
The card is about to hit the block at Goldin Auctions ... and they tell us they expect the piece to sell for OVER a milli.
The condition of the card is rated at 9.5 a.k.a. "gem mint."
Basically, it's as good as new.
FYI -- a few months back, GA sold an ultra-rare Mike Trout signed rookie card for almost $923K ... a record sale price.
But, Trout may soon be knocked off the throne by King James.
“The basketball card market is on fire," Goldin tells us.
"We expect this will surpass the record recently sent by the $922,500 Mike Trout card to become the most valuable basketball and most valuable modern card of all time”
As if the card -- signed by Bron in blue ink -- wasn't already cool enough ... it also contains a piece of an actual patch from James' rookie season Cleveland Cavs jersey.
LeBron averaged 21 points per game, 6 assists, and 5.5 rebounds a game in '03-'04 ... and won the Rookie of the Year.
The world's most expensive piece of 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch cardboard hits the block June 22nd.
Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce took to the streets to fight for justice on Monday ... telling TMZ Sports it's time to confront racism and police brutality head-on.
Hundreds of people -- including the NBA coach -- gathered in ATL for the NAACP's "March on Georgia" after Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed at the hands of 2 police officers on Friday.
Pierce spoke with us about what the city needs to do moving forward ... and he says it starts at the top.
"The issue is not in Atlanta, I think the issue is in our country and not addressing racism and addressing the system of racism that's continued to go on for over 400 years."
"I'm more encouraged more by what we're seeing here today, but I understand that everybody's fighting in different cities all over the world -- not just in our country -- to address that black lives matter and racism exists in our country."
Pierce also addressed the decision to fire one of the cops and place the other on administrative leave ... saying the fight is bigger than singular incidents.
"I think we have a systemic problem. To just point fingers and go back and forth, who did what, that's not why we're fighting. We're not fighting for whats happening right now, we're fighting for something that's been happening for over 450 years."
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Pierce isn't the only outspoken member of the Hawks org. -- superstar Trae Young has been leading peaceful protests in Oklahoma following George Floyd's death last month.