LeBron James Demands Justice For Breonna Taylor Powerful Post-Game Speech

The Lakers made their return to the court for the first time in 135 days on Thursday ... but LeBron James had more important things to discuss afterward.

"First of all, I want to continue to shed light on justice for Breonna Taylor and to her family and everything that's going on with that situation," James told the media after a scrimmage against the Dallas Mavericks.

"We want the cops arrested who committed that crime."

James -- along with the rest of the NBA -- is pushing for social justice during the league's return to play ... especially for Taylor, who was killed by 3 Louisville police officers in her home in March.

"As one of the leaders of this league, I want her family to know, and I want the state of Kentucky to know that we feel for her and we want justice. That’s what it’s all about. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong."

As we previously reported, Taylor's family is well aware of the advocacy led by the NBA superstars ... and Breonna's mother told TMZ Sports she is grateful for their actions.

"Everyone raising their voices for justice are what keeps this family going each day," Tamika Palmer told us.

LeBron -- who etched ""#Justice4BreonnaT"" on his sneaker for Thursday night's scrimmage -- also weighed in on Black Lives Matter ... clarifying it's not a movement, but a lifestyle.

"When you're Black, it's not a movement," James said. "It's a lifestyle. We sit here and say it's a movement, and, okay ... how long is this movement going to last?"

"'Don't stop the movement.' ... No, this is a walk of life. When you wake up and you're Black, that is what it is."

"It shouldn't be a movement. It should be a lifestyle. This is who we are."

Top H.S. Basketball Recruit Forget Hats ... Makes School Choice with COVID Masks!!!

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You've seen players use hats, puppies and hidden jerseys ... but the newest way top college prospects are announcing their school decisions -- COVID MASKS!!

R.J. Keene -- a top H.S. basketball player in Texas -- set the new trend Thursday ... heading to a table full of face coverings to drum up excitement for his college choice.

Custom masks with logos from Utah State, Hawaii, George Washington and a few others were lined up ... with news cameras rolling to see which one the 6'7", 190-pound forward would choose!

In the end, Keene locked in on the Boise State mask, picked it up and put it on -- and boom!

He unveiled a Broncos shirt as well -- and it was all met with applause.

Unique, right?!

FYI -- Keene's a baller ... dude had offers from a ton of schools after lighting up courts in Texas -- so the Mountain West Conference is getting a pretty good one.

Good at hoops AND creative AND following coronavirus safety protocols?!?? Boise's gonna love him!!!

J.R. Smith I Didn't Pack Enough Undies For NBA Bubble ... Only Brought 7 Pairs!!!

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WHOOPS!!!

J.R. Smith says he only brought 7 pairs of underwear for his time in the NBA bubble ... and he's VERY QUICKLY realized that's nowhere near enough!!

"I figured I'd be good for once a day," J.R. told Spectrum SportsNet this week. "But then I didn't calculate all the showers in between everything that I've been doing."

The new Los Angeles Laker says between golf, basketball and other daily activities ... he's going through undies like crazy -- and it's starting to become a real issue!!

"I've been running through (pairs) in like 2 or 3 days!" J.R. said.

The good news? Smith says the NBA is providing excellent laundry service ... so it doesn't seem there's been any unnecessary re-use -- yet.

Begs the question ... how can Smith not somehow score an extra bag of Hanes in Orlando?!?!

Like, come on, bro ... you've made over $80 MILLION in your NBA career!!!!

LeBron James Fired Up Over Lakers' Return Not A Scrimmage To Me!!!

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LeBron James and the Lakers are finally back on the court Thursday night ... and MAN, THIS DUDE IS PUMPED TF UP ABOUT IT!!!

It's been 135 days since we've seen the Purple & Gold in action thanks to the COVID-19 shutdown ... and the King has been champing at the bit to return to work.

The Lakers have a scrimmage (yes, we're this stoked about a game that doesn't even matter) against the Dallas Mavericks at 7 PM ... which is the first bit of action before the season returns July 30.

But, for LeBron?? This ain't no scrimmage.

"Let’s Get It!! We back at it tonight," LBJ said on IG. "Can’t wait and it’s just a scrimmage. Not to me though."

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

Of course, LeBron is jumping back into his quest for a 4th ring ... and the Lakers (currently 1st in the West) are poised to make a run at the title.

"Championship mindset at all time!! 🤷🏾‍♂️👑. #RevengeSeasonContinues😤 #ThekidfromAKRON🤴🏾"

Bron's excitement is GREAT news for Laker fans ... not so much for the Mavs.

Can you believe it?? SPORTS ARE BACK, BABY!!!

WNBA's Renee Montgomery Sen. Loeffler is Wrong Fans Won't Abandon League Over Black Lives Matter

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EVERYONE'S INCLUDED
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Atlanta Dream star Renee Montgomery says she straight-up disagrees with her boss -- claiming Sen. Kelly Loeffler is wrong for thinking fans will turn on the league overeats support of Black Lives Matter.

FYI, Senator Loeffler (R-GA) is a co-owner of the Dream -- and made it clear she's AGAINST the league's social justice initiatives that support BLM claiming it will rub some WNBA fans the wrong way.

"I think a lot of people feel that they may not have a place," Loeffler told ESPN ... "They may feel excluded from this sport and other sports that make them feel like American values aren't at the core of what we're doing here."

Loeffler was also critical of the Black Lives Matter organization -- saying it's much different from the BLM movement, which she strongly condemns.

"The Black Lives Matter political organization advocates things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family. It promotes violence and antisemitism. To me, this is not what our league stands for."

Enter Montgomery ... who played 2 seasons with the Dream -- and responded to Loeffler's comments on the "TMZ Sports" TV show.

Montgomery says it's great that Loeffler is open to having a deeper 1-on-1 conversation about the issue ... but for now, they remain on opposite sides of the fence.

Long story short, Montgomery says the WNBA is embracing the BLM movement -- NOT the group -- and she's frustrated that certain people like Loeffler are trying to conflate them.

Montgomery -- an 11-year WNBA vet and 2-time WNBA champion -- also says she doesn't believe fans will leave in droves because players are fighting for social justice.

"If its gonna bother a fan that much that a player wants to promote equality -- that a player wants to promote the movement -- then maybe [those fans] shouldn’t watch it."

Montgomery adds, "[Loeffler is] saying they're gonna lose fans but I think a lot of people will be welcoming to the idea of inclusion."

Renee also wonders why Loeffler is digging in her heels so strongly to continue to be a part of a league with such different social values -.

"I don’t understand why you would want to be a part of something that has such different beliefs than you."

Montgomery recently opted out of her 3rd year with the Dream to focus on social justice issues -- but hasn't retired and could rejoin the league next year.

When asked if the rift with Loeffler would dissuade her from rejoining the Atlanta Dream -- Montgomery said it would not ... explaining how the organization as a whole has been incredibly supportive.

"I have no problem with the Dream organization at all."

Catch Renee -- our new co-host on "TMZ Sports" -- weeknights on FS1.

Kings' Richaun Holmes Chicken Wings Made Me Leave Bubble ... 'Won't Make That Mistake Again!!!'

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FINGER LICKIN' FAULT

Richaun Holmes is revealing the meal that made him risk it all and leave the NBA bubble ... saying he was craving some delicious chicken wings!!!

Remember, the Sacramento Kings forward/center was forced back into a 10-day quarantine in Orlando earlier this month ... after he stepped off the Disney campus to pick up a food delivery.

The 26-year-old is back with the team after doing his time ... and he's breaking down the moment he messed up and popped the bubble.

"I ordered some food, ordered some wings and went to grab the wings and I wasn't really too aware of the borders," Holmes said.

"I stepped out, grabbed the food and came back and they just let me know they want me to be as safe as possible and had to enforce the rules and I completely understand that."

"Won't make that mistake again."

Of course, the league is taking the bubble VERY seriously ... which has resulted in ZERO new positive COVID-19 tests over the past week.

Holmes says he spent the 10 days working out and doing sprints in his room ... even using a punching bag to get out his aggression.

But, the REAL question is ... were the wings worth it?!?!

"We had a little BBQ/lemon pepper mix. it was pretty solid, they were pretty solid."

Kevin Garnett Olive Branch to Wolves Owner ... In Hopes to Buy Team

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6:07 AM PT -- 7/22 -- Kevin Garnett is now trying to bury the hatchet with Glen Taylor -- hoping they can end their beef so KG can buy the team.

"Regardless of past feelings with Glen, I would love nothing better than to become partners going forward in this great but massive rebuilding of a city that I deeply love," Garnett said in an IG statement.

"Putting the past to the side/focus on the now," Garnett added ... "*F*** the rest. #Bigfacts #TrueChange Let's goooo damitt."

KG also issued a second statement saying he truly loved Minneapolis and wants to help build a championship team for the city.

"No two people love the city more than myself and Glen Taylor and I look forward to trying to work with him to achieve my dream."

Will the new friendly strategy work? Stay tuned ...

The Minnesota Timberwolves are hitting the market ... and none other than NBA legend Kevin Garnett is part of an investment group gunning to buy the team.

Billionaire owner Glen Taylor -- who has owned the team since 1995 -- confirmed Tuesday he's listening to offers to sell the team ... saying he is "seriously considering" all his options, according to The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania.

KG -- the best T-Wolves player of all time -- is part of a group of investors who are "seriously interested" in placing a bid for the team, the report says.

Remember, Garnett absolutely HATES Taylor ... and it stems from a promise he made with the late Flip Saunders about taking a front office or ownership role with the team.

KG says the businessman broke his promise after Saunders died by bringing in Tom Thibodeau instead ... and brought up his issues with the owner back in April.

"I don’t do business with snakes," KG told Shams at the time. "I don’t do business with snake motherf***ers. I try not to do business with openly snakes or people who are snake-like."

Of course, Taylor had intended on putting KG's #21 up in the rafters at the Target Center ... which the hooper rejected until Taylor was no longer owner of the team.

Depending on who gets the team ... it may be time for that ceremony after all.

Originally Published -- 7/21 2:40 PM PT

Lakers' Alex Caruso Skips Sister's Wedding ... to Stay In NBA Bubble

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L.A. Lakers guard Alex Caruso -- a fan favorite -- decided to skip his sister's wedding to stay inside the NBA bubble ... all because he didn't want to let down his teammates.

Alex's older sister Megan was set to tie the knot on July 18 at an indoor venue near Austin, Texas ... with more than 100 people scheduled to attend.

Alex says he's super tight with his sister --- telling ESPN, "Megan is as close to my No. 1 fan as anyone could get."

Obviously, Alex WANTED to go to the wedding -- and explored all of his options ... including renting a private jet to travel and finding a "safe house" away from the rest of the guests to sleep after the event.

But, Caruso says he began to realize it wouldn't just be a quick trip -- since he's already inside the bubble, he would need to be re-cleared for entrance into the Walt Disney World environment in Orlando ... a process that could take up to 14 days even if he tested negative for COVID.

Caruso says he ran the idea by his Lakers bosses and teammates -- including LeBron James and Anthony Davis -- and everyone was on board with his plan to go.

But, then ... a change of heart.

Alex says the two superstars "helped me realize how important I am to what we are trying to do here" -- win a championship.

And, with teammates Avery Bradley (opted out) and Rajon Rondo (hand injury) not available for the NBA restart ... Caruso ultimately decided he was too valuable to the team.

"If I was on a team that didn't have title aspirations -- a team trying to hold on to the No. 8 seed or something -- it might have been different," Caruso said ... "But we have worked too hard."

Caruso decided to stay in the bubble -- and people at the wedding later sent him video so he could watch the event after the fact.

Probably for the best ... since Caruso says only about 75% of the guests wore masks -- and it sounds like there was high risk of exposure!

Now, Caruso and the Lakers can continue to focus on the NBA restart -- which tips off July 30.

Hope it was worth it!

NBA's Taj Gibson Paying For Funeral Of 1-Yr-Old ... Shot At Brooklyn BBQ

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NY Knicks player Taj Gibson is stepping up to help finance the funeral of Davell Gardner Jr. ... after the 1-year-old boy was tragically shot and killed in Brooklyn last week.

Gardner was shot around 11:30 PM on July 12 when two gunmen opened fire on a family barbecue at the Bedford-Stuyvesant playground. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died a short time after.

Gibson -- who also organized a peace walk against gun violence in Bed-Stuy after Gardner's death -- will pay for the pay the funeral and wake, a rep for the NBAer told the Brooklyn Paper.

The report also says the 35-year-old will work through his Taj Gibson Foundation to provide Gardner's family with additional financial support while dealing with the tragedy.

Gibson has been vocal against gun violence in his home city ... and uses his charity to help provide "resources and inspiration to the youth of New York City to help keep them healthy and to help them reach their full potential in life," according to its website.

As for the shooting investigation into Gardner's death, officials say there have been no arrests.

NBA Orlando Bubble Court Revealed 'Black Lives Matter,' Distanced Benches

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The NBA courts for the 2020 season restart have been revealed ... and, as promised, feature a massive "Black Lives Matter" paint job front and center.

The league and the NBPA came up with the idea to display the message at all 3 arenas used inside the bubble ... as a way to show solidarity with the social justice movement.

Along with the BLM paint ... the sideline benches have been spread out to provide 6-feet of distancing for team staffers and players as a form of precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, commish Adam Silver previously suggested banning several coaches -- including Mike D'Antoni (69) and Gregg Popovich (71) -- from the sidelines due to their age ... but eventually scrapped the idea.

The NBA's set-up also features huge video boards and its "Whole New Game" slogan for the restart.

While no fans will be able to attend games, at least players have the chance to fill up some seats.

The league is set to tip-off again on July 30 with 22 teams battling for the playoffs.

Sen. Ted Cruz NBA Ain't 'Woke' ... Until League Stands Up to China

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FEELIN' DISAPPOINTED
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Senator Ted Cruz is doubling down on his attack of Mark Cuban and the NBA -- claiming the league SAYS it's all about social justice ... until it comes to China.

"When it comes to communist China, [the NBA makes] a crap ton of money from China so they silence everybody," Cruz said ... "They're not willing to say a word."

Cruz is referring to the NBA's 2019 dust-up with China -- when the country blackballed the league because Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey dared to tweet support for protestors in Hong Kong.

Cruz thinks the NBA doesn't really care about freedom or free speech -- because its leadership and top players have not publicly criticized the injustice in China the same way they've rallied together for social issues in the U.S.

"Show me an NBA player who's allowed to put 'Tiananmen Square' on the back of his jersey, then I'll be impressed with their commitment to free speech."

Cruz says Cuban's decision to stick up for his players -- while dismissing fans who are offended by the anthem protests -- is wrong and disrespectful.

"The answer is for the NBA to show one, one-billionth of the spinal fortitude they show kissing up to and apologizing for communist China."

Cruz -- wearing a Houston Rockets mask -- also said straight-up the anthem kneeling protests are disrespectful to police and military members ... despite people like Colin Kaepernick explaining it's only meant to spotlight social injustice and police brutality.

And, Cruz issued this warning to Cuban and the rest of league ... if you ignore anti-kneeling fans, you're going to pay the price.

"The more they make these woke political, lefty leagues -- that are that telling police officers they hate them, that are telling veterans they're not welcome -- the more they're telling their fans if you're not on the hard left, and if you don't disrespect America's privilege, the more you're gonna see fans saying, You know what, I'm gonna find something else to do with my time.'"

Breonna Taylor's Mom Praises NBA, WNBA Stars for Keeping Spotlight On Daughter's Case

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Breonna Taylor's mother tells TMZ Sports ... she's VERY aware of the NBA and WNBA stars who are constantly keeping the spotlight on her daughter's killing -- and she's hoping it finally leads to justice.

"Everyone raising their voices for justice are what keeps this family going each day," Tamika Palmer tells us.

"What is being done by the NBA and the WNBA is amazing. Now, it’s time for the attorney general to listen, to charge everyone responsible for Bree’s murder and to get overdue justice."

"Bree should be with us. The world was a better place with her."

Tamika is specifically referring to pro ballers like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Tobias Harris, Dwight Howard, Kyrie Irving and more who have spoken out publicly to put pressure on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to charge the police officers who shot and killed Breonna in March while executing a no-knock warrant.

FOCUS ON WHAT'S IMPORTANT

In the WNBA, the entire league is wearing warm-up shirts with Breonna's name as a tribute.

And, get this ... Tamika was also involved in a zoom call over the weekend with more than 30 NBA players, according to family attorney Lonita Baker ... who tells us they all spoke about how to continue to use their platform to get results.

We're told Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were just 2 of the players on the call -- and at one point, CP3 discussed how players were considering not playing this season to keep the focus on social justice issues.

Baker tells us Breonna's family is moved by all of the support and action -- but also realizes the true fight for justice is much bigger than just Breonna.

Dwyane Wade Pays Tribute To Kobe Bryant ... With New Sneakers

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DEDICATED TO THE G.O.A.T.
@dwyanewade / Instagram

Dwyane Wade is honoring Kobe Bryant with his latest sneaker colorway ... paying homage to the late Lakers legend with a touching tribute.

Wade and the Black Mamba were great friends during their time in the NBA ... and were teammates when Team USA won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics.

Wade showed off a sneak peek of his unreleased Way Of Wade kicks over the weekend ... which are decked out in Lakers colors and feature Kobe's numbers on the tongues.

The inner soles also share one of Kobe's most famous quotes -- "Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses."

Kobe died in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas on January 26. He was 41 years old.

Wade -- who has a shoe deal with Li-Ning -- is known for making a statement with his kicks ... and even worked with his daughter, Zaya, to come up with a Pride design in her honor.

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

No word on when/if the Kobe shoes will drop ... but fans are gonna want these.

LeBron James' Rookie Card Fetches $1.8 Million At Auction ... Most Expensive Ever!!!

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LeBron James is now officially the G.O.A.T. in the trading card world ... an insanely rare piece from the King's rookie season just fetched $1.8 MILLION -- making it the most expensive card EVER!

According to officials at Goldin Auctions, which smashed the gavel on final bidding over the weekend, the LeBron card topped the previous leader -- a Mike Trout rookie piece -- by nearly $900,000.

The James card is pretty amazing ... coming out of the 2003-2004 Upper Deck Exquisite collection, it's only one of 23 ever produced.

It features a piece of a jersey cut from a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform he wore during a photo shoot during his rookie season ... and it also has LBJ's autograph clear-as-day in blue ink on the front.

It has a grading of 9.5, meaning the card is in near-perfect shape too ... which is why bidding soared from a $150k start to a $1.8 million finish in just a few weeks.

Pretty cool for LeBron ... but even cooler? The Lakers superstar said on social media he has "a couple of those exact" cards still laying around his house too!!!

COULD YOU IMAGINE BEING SO RICH THAT YOU HAVE A COUPLE MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR CARDS JUST LAYING AROUND?!

Amazing.

By the way, the winning bidder was reportedly Leore Avidar -- a super-rich guy who co-founded Lob.com.

Congrats!!!

NBA Prospect Cassius Stanley Cops Insane Michael Jackson Pendant ... Smooth Criminal Style!!!

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NBA prospect Cassius Stanley just copped a new piece that would make the Gloved One proud -- a diamond pendant of Michael Jackson doing his iconic tilt from the "Smooth Criminal" music video!!

TMZ Sports has learned ... the projected 1st round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft hit up Clarity Custom Jewelry, a Black-owned business in L.A., to get himself a personal gift before jumping to the pros.

THE KING OF BLING
Clarity Customs

Jeweler Courtney Roy tells us the ex-Duke guard is a HUGE fan of the King of Pop ... so it was easy to decide what he wanted to get -- a pendant in the shape of Jackson's tilt pose from the 1988 music video!

You know what we're talking about ... about 7 minutes into the vid, MJ and his dancers defy gravity by leaning at a 45-degree angle. It's insane.

Roy tells us it took 3 different designs to get it right for the 20-year-old baller ... but ended up with a product that's decked out with white gold and 3 karats of VVS diamonds.

Roy -- who also designed jewelry for Shareef O'Neal and Patrick Beverley -- says this MJ piece is one of his favs and was thrilled (haha, MJ pun) to make it come together.

No word on how much the piece cost ... but the dude's just months away from cashing in ... so treat yo' self!!

Congrats!!

P.S. -- for those who didn't know, Jackson actually used a special shoe with a heel slot to help him achieve the move. Cheating? Kinda. Still dope.

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