Dana White Kobe Bryant Was UFC Investor ... To Be Honored at UFC 247


Kobe Bryant wasn't just a UFC fan -- he was a big investor -- and got a huge distribution check from the company just days before he passed away ... so says Dana White.

The NBA legend was famous for his business savvy off the court -- and White says part of Kobe's portfolio was an ownership stake in UFC and Body Armor, the official energy drink of the UFC.

White tells TMZ Sports ... that 2019 was the most successful year in UFC history which resulted in massive payouts for all of the investors.

"Kobe got a distribution from the UFC the Wednesday before the incident and he was so pumped up and excited and he said what everybody always says, 'I wish I had invested more!'"

White says he'll remember Kobe as a great dude and an important part of the UFC fabric -- and tells us the organization plans to honor Kobe on Saturday at UFC 247 in Houston.

As for the fight card, White says he's extremely fired up about the main event -- Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes -- telling us Reyes is a dangerous man with a real shot to beat the G.O.A.T.


And, if Reyes wins, there will no doubt be a rematch.

There's more ... after the controversy between Joe Rogan and Stephen A. Smith following the Conor McGregor vs. Cowboy Cerrone fight, we asked if the two TV stars would be working together at UFC 247, Dana replied, "I don't think so."


Remember, Rogan said he was upset with the ESPN host for crapping all over Cowboy's "atrocious" performance during the UFC 246 post-fight show.

Smith said he felt like Cowboy quit -- to which Rogan essentially said Smith's opinion was uninformed and just plain wrong.

Conor McGregor felt Smith disrespected Cowboy and publicly called for Stephen A. to apologize.

White says he's not a fan of announcers ripping pro fighters -- but acknowledges that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Bobbi Kristina BF Nick Gordon Died of Heroin Overdose


Nick Gordon died of a heroin overdose ... according to his autopsy and toxicology report.

The report -- obtained by TMZ -- says Gordon was found unresponsive and in cardiac arrest. He was hospitalized for 7 hours before he died. There was also Narcan in his system ... a drug used to counteract the effects of an overdose.

As we reported ... Nick had some sort of black fluid foaming out of his mouth the day someone called 911 to say he wasn't breathing. A man claiming to be Nick's brother said Nick died of an apparent OD. The "black stuff" could support that conclusion ... given that black discharge is sometimes related to a foam cone that comes out of the mouth and nostrils after an opioid OD.


The 911 call came in as "cardiac respiratory" on New Year's Day. He had been rushed to the hospital where he died. Nick's brother, Jack Walker Jr., shared the news by writing, "GOD WHY DID I HAVE TO LOSE MY BROTHER ON NEW YEARS," and adding, "All I can do is cry."

As you know by now ... Nick was present when Whitney Houston's daughter and his girlfriend -- Bobbi Kristina -- OD'd in a bathtub in 2015.


He was found legally liable for her death and cops investigated him in connection with her death for years ... but he was never charged.

Gayle King CBS Has Her Back Over Kobe Clip Outrage

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12:17 PM PT -- LeBron James just spoke in defense of Lisa Leslie -- saying Protect @LisaLeslie at all cost!"

He added, "You’re a real Superhero!! Sorry you had to [go] through that s*%#!!! We are our own worse enemies! #Mamba4Life"

11:48 AM PT -- A rep for CBS News tells TMZ, "Gayle conducted a thoughtful, wide-ranging interview with Lisa Leslie about the legacy of Kobe Bryant. An excerpt was posted that did not reflect the nature and tone of the full interview. We are addressing the internal process that led to this and changes have already been made."

"I am mortified. I am embarrassed and I am very angry."

That's Gayle King going NUCLEAR on her own network, CBS, for releasing an interview clip with Kobe Bryant's good friend, Lisa Leslie, in which King asks about Kobe's rape case ... claiming CBS simply did her dirty.

Here's the deal ... earlier this week, CBS released a teaser clip from King's big interview with the WNBA star in which she asks if Bryant's legacy is "complicated" because of the 2003 sexual assault case.

King received a TON of backlash online from people who claim the question was insensitive and inappropriate -- including 50 Cent and Vivica A. Fox.

In a video she made Thursday morning, Gayle admitted she's been reading the tidal wave of negative comments on social media and it's been driving her crazy!

"I know that if I had only seen the clip that you saw, I’d be extremely angry with me too,” King said.

She continued, "I am mortified. I am embarrassed and I am very angry."

"Unbeknownst to me, my network put up a clip from a very wide-ranging interview -- totally taken out of context -- and when you see it that way, it’s very jarring. It’s jarring to me. I didn’t even know anything about it."

King says the sexual assault question was only a small part of a larger conversation about Kobe's life ... and she felt it WAS appropriate to ask that question at the time.

"We talked about that court case because that court case has also come up. And, I wanted to get Lisa’s take on it as a friend who knew him well, what she thought, where that should stand."

"It was very powerful when she looked me in the eye, as a member of the media, to say, 'It’s time for the media to leave it alone and to back off.'"

"I felt really good about the interview ... so, for the network to take the most salacious part when taken out of context, and put it up for people who didn’t see the whole interview, is very upsetting to me and that’s something I’m going to have to deal with them."

"There will be a very intense discussion about that."

Originally Published -- 6:08 AM PT

PGA's Justin Thomas Auctioning Off Custom Kobe Clubs For Crash Victims' Families

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Awesome gesture from PGA Tour star Justin Thomas -- the golfer is auctioning off his custom Kobe Bryant wedges ... and says the proceeds will go to the families affected by Bryant's tragic helicopter crash.

Thomas paid tribute to the Black Mamba often this past weekend at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz. ... even rocking a Bryant high school jersey while playing.

But, his best Mamba ode came courtesy of the clubs he used to shoot ... 'cause each of Thomas' wedges had some cool Kobe-isms etched into the iron.

"Mamba Mentality," "Black Mamba," "Kobe Bean Bryant" and "81 Points" were inscribed on his Titleist Vokeys for the four-day tourney.

Now, Thomas -- who finished third in the event -- says a lucky fan can have them for a price ... and says all the money will go toward The MambaOnThree Fund.

Of course, that's the charity Vanessa Bryant set up to help the families of those killed in the tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan. 26.

Thomas was particularly hit hard by the tragedy ... he's been a noted HUGE Kobe fan throughout his career, famously yelling "KOBE!" before tough shots in the past.

Pablo Escobar Main Hitman 'Popeye' Dead ... After Stomach Cancer

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Pablo Escobar's trusted hitman -- who confessed to killing more than 300 people -- has died, but not in a hail of bullets ... instead, he lost a battle with stomach cancer.

Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez -- widely known by his alias, Popeye -- died early Thursday at the National Cancer Institute in Bogota where he'd been receiving care. Popeye was hospitalized on New Year's Eve for esophageal cancer, according to prison officials.

He was ultimately transferred to the institute when the prison found out about his cancer diagnosis. Popeye had been behind bars for more than 20 years after confessing to the murders ... the majority of which came at Escobar's orders.

Popeye wrote a book in 2005 about his time in the Medellín Cartel: "Surviving Pablo Escobar: 'Popeye' The Hitman, 23 Years and 3 Months in Prison." He was released from prison in 2014 but was recaptured just 4 years later for a slew of other crimes, including extortion.

The hitman -- who once plotted the assassination of a former Colombian presidential candidate -- gained notoriety on YouTube spewing hate-filled rants and defending conservative political views. He had more than 1 million subscribers on his channel.

Popeye was 54.

Dennis Rodman I Love Kobe ... But Don't Change NBA Logo


Dennis Rodman says he's heartbroken over Kobe Bryant's death -- calling the guy "a mini-Michael Jordan" -- but he tells TMZ Sports the NBA should NOT change its logo to honor him.

"That's a tough one," Rodman said outside of Staples Center on Tuesday ... "Kobe has the charisma for the signature of a logo, but I'm holding my vote on that one."

Of course, tons of people have been in favor of the change -- celebs from Snoop Dogg to Julian Edelman have tweeted their support for it -- and an online petition earned more than 3 MILLION signatures last week.

On top of that, Paul Pierce recently told us he's all for the league making Mamba the logo and retiring both of his jersey numbers.


But, Rodman says Jerry West has just meant too much to him and too much to the game to pull him off the Association's iconic trademark, telling us, "I'm a good friend of Jerry West."

"He's been a mentor of mine for a long, long time," Rodman says ... "[It should] stay the way it is."

Don't get it twisted ... Rodman says he's been torn up ever since he learned of Kobe's tragic helicopter crash on January 26 -- telling us KB was one of "the most" exciting and inspirational people "in the world."

"I love you, Kobe," Rodman said. "Rest in peace, baby. Love and respect, baby."

Vanessa Bryant Gianna's Jersey Retirement ... 'So Proud Of You Mamacita'

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6:27 PM PT -- Vanessa just shared the scene from Gianna's jersey retirement ceremony at her private school.

Vanessa says, "My Gigi. I love you! I miss you. You've taught us all that no act of kindness is ever too small. Mommy is still and will ALWAYS be so proud of you mamacita."

3:32 PM PT -- Vanessa just made a new post about Gianna -- saying, "My Gianna. God I miss you."

"I’ve been so lucky to have woken up to see your gorgeous face and amazing smile for 13 years. Wish it would’ve been until my last breath."

"Mommy loves you to the moon and back. Infinity plus 1. #2 #Mambacita #GigiBryant."

"Miss you so much"

That's Vanessa Bryant posting about Kobe Bryant -- remembering him on social media as a "loving husband" and "The Best Daddy."

Vanessa went to Instagram on Wednesday to post about her husband -- referring to Kobe as "my best friend" and saying she misses all of the funny, sweet little things he would do during their marriage.

"Miss you saying, 'Bonjourno principessa/reina'" Vanessa wrote ... referencing Kobe's ability to speak Italian.

"#mybestfriend #theBestdaddy Miss you so much. #handsome #sweet #funny #silly #lovinghusband ❤️Miss you saying, “Bonjourno principessa/reina."

Vanessa also posted a clip from a recent "Extra" interview in which Kobe was asked to name his best friend -- and he responded, "My wife."

Just a few days ago, Vanessa posted a painting of her daughter Gianna Bryant dressed up in Lakers gear -- and wrote, "Seeing my babygirl smile and happy again with a basketball 🏀 under her arm, wrapped in 💜💛love just warmed my heart."

"Thank you for this. @_vivalareina thank you!! My Gigi.❤️ #Mambacita."

Kobe and Gianna passed away January 26. We're told the Bryant family is working on putting together a public memorial for them but nothing is set in stone yet.

Originally Published -- 9:50 AM PT

Kirk Douglas Dead at 103

Kirk Douglas -- renowned actor and father of Michael Douglas, with a decorated career spanning more than 6 decades -- has died.

Kirk passed Wednesday. Kirk's health had been in decline. In 1996 he suffered a stroke but recovered most of his faculties. Last time we saw him enjoying life was in April 2019 when he was "camping" in his grandson's backyard.

Michael told People, "It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard of us all to aspire to."

Michael ended it this way ... "But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband."

Kirk's appeared in a few minor Broadway productions in the '40s but then put his career on hold and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941. After several years of service, Kirk returned to theater, but his best work came on the big screen.

The famed actor and producer earned critical acclaim for his role in the 1960 classic, "Spartacus." In "Spartacus," Kirk gave onscreen credit to blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Kirk's move started the dissolution of the infamous blacklisting policies that had begun nearly a decade prior.

Kirk was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in 1949 for his role as boxer Midge Kelly in "Champion." He also earned 2 Oscar nominations as a producer for "The Bad and the Beautiful" in 1953 and "Lust for Life" in 1957.

He acted alongside John Wayne in 3 films -- "In Harm's Way," "Cast a Giant Shadow" and "The War Wagon." He also shared screen time with one Arnold Schwarzenegger ... in the 1979 film "The Villain" and with Farrah Fawcett in the sci-fi flick, "Saturn 3."

Fun fact ... Kirk once earned a $50k paycheck for saying the only English word at the end of a 1980s Japanese TV commercial: Coffee.

Kirk survived a helicopter crash in 1991. Two other passengers were killed and Kirk was left with a terrible back injury. He also did tons of humanitarian work ... serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.S. State Department.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981 by President Jimmy Carter. France also honored Kirk with the prestigious Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. The Academy Awards also honored him with an honorary Oscar in 1995.

Kirk -- once voted the 36th greatest movie star of all time by Entertainment Weekly -- was born Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York to Russian parents who came to the states in 1912. Kirk married Diana Dill in 1943 and they had two sons -- Michael and Joel. Kirk and Diana divorced in 1951. He later married Anne Buydens in 1954 after meeting her when she applied for a job as his assistant on the film, "Act of Love." Kirk and Anne had two more sons ... Peter and Eric, who died in 2004.

Kirk's survived by Anne, children Michael, Joel and Peter and seven grandchildren.

He was 103. RIP.

Dog the Bounty Hunter Chill Benihana Birthday Dinner ... No Sign of Moon Angell

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Dog the Bounty Hunter's tumultuous week of family drama was capped off with a birthday dinner filled with emotion ... but interestingly, without ONE key person.

Sources close to the reality TV star tell TMZ ... Duane celebrated his 67th birthday Tuesday with a small group of family and friends at a Denver Benihana. We're told everyone at the table shared stories ... including some about Beth Chapman, which made Dog a little weepy.

The guests included his daughter, Bonnie and her husband, his son, Garry, his advisor and Justin Bihag ... one of his employees who's run into legal trouble lately.

TMZ broke the story ... Justin was arrested for allegedly violating probation. Dog's other daughter, Lyssa, reportedly outed Justin to cops, but she's having some legal trouble of her own now.

It's a messy situation, and it all ties back to Justin's mom, Moon Angell.

In case you haven't heard, Moon is a longtime friend of Dog and Beth who's been accused of starting up a romantic relationship with the guy in the wake of Beth's passing. They've both denied anything physical is going on, insisting their relationship is platonic.

They even went on the 'Dr. Oz Show' and put on a "test" proposal to definitively confirm nothing fishy's going on between them, despite Lyssa's suspicions.

Interestingly enough, Moon was NOT at Dog's birthday dinner -- even though Justin was. We're told Dog loves the kid like one of his own and continues to look out for him.

No word on why Moon didn't show. But, probably doesn't hurt to let things cool off.

Shareef O'Neal Tattoo Tribute to Kobe and Gianna

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12:51 PM PT -- Shareef just posted pictures of the nearly-finished tattoos ... and they feature Kobe's brand logo, a silhouette of Kobe mid-jump shot, the #8 and #24, Gianna's "Mamba" jersey and the words, "Mamba Mentality."

Shareef says the art will be getting background ink soon.

Shareef O'Neal is honoring Gianna and Kobe Bryant by tattooing their jerseys on his body ... and the pictures are amazing.

As we previously reported, Shaq's son became VERY close with the Bryants -- he basically viewed Kobe as an uncle.


Shareef has been deeply affected by their deaths and has been searching for ways to pay tribute to the Bryants. He's been posting a lot on social media. He went to the Bryant tribute at Staples Center. And now, he's inking their numbers on his leg.

Check out the pic ... you can see Gigi's #2 jersey she rocked for her Mamba Academy team. He also added Kobe's #8 and #24, the two numbers he wore with the Lakers.

Of course, LeBron James and Anthony Davis have also inked Kobe tributes on their legs -- both got imagery of a Black Mamba snake with the words, "Mamba 4 Life."

Originally Published -- 6:32 AM PT

Soundgarden Sorry, Vicky ... Those New Songs Are the Band's!!!

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9:43 AM PT -- Cornell's attorney, Marty Singer, tells TMZ, "It is disappointing that Chris’ former band members have now sought to taint his legacy by making numerous false allegations, and that they continue to withhold substantial monies from his widow and minor children (despite using those same funds to pay for their own legal fees)."

He continues, "The issue in this case is not who wrote the songs but rather who owns the specific recordings made solely by Chris while he resided in Florida. We are very confident that the Court will vindicate the rights of Chris’ Estate, and that the case will properly remain in Florida, where Chris resided and recorded the songs that are now the lawful property of his Estate."

Chris Cornell's former bandmates are taking a stand against his widow ... insisting she's got the wrong idea about who owns a bunch of unreleased Soundgarden tunes.

Soundgarden is responding to Vicky Cornell's lawsuit, filed last year ... claiming ownership of 7 tracks she says she found on Chris' laptop after his death -- but the band says ... not so fast!

In new docs, they acknowledge there are unreleased songs but say they -- as a band -- had been working on them as far back as 2014. As evidence, they point to a February 2017 article where Chris himself spoke to Music Radar about Soundgarden's new material. He said, "We have a lot of interesting songs."


The operative word there being, "We" ... according to the band. According to the docs, Soundgarden got together in the studio in April 2017 to do more work on the songs. They acknowledge they took a break from polishing the songs later that month ... to go on tour.

It was during that tour, in May 2017, that Chris died by suicide.

Further, Soundgarden say they've corresponded with Vicky about the songs, and she's admitted they were the band's property ... not just Chris' solo work.

They also think she's filed her lawsuit in the wrong court -- a federal court in Florida -- because the band is based in Seattle. Therefore, they're asking a judge to dismiss Vicky's lawsuit or, at least, force her to refile in the proper district.

Originally Published -- 6:34 AM PT

Brian McKnight Kobe Bryant Song Will Be Released ... On My Final Album. Ever?!?


Brian McKnight's touching personal tribute to Kobe Bryant will make its way to the public eventually on a new album -- and just as sad ... it might be his last foray into music.

The R&B singer was on "TMZ Live" Monday to talk about writing the new tune, "Can't Say Goodbye" ... which he personally wrote and performed in honor of the late NBA superstar. He says he can't even remember writing it ... the lyrics just poured out of him.


Brian tells us he's never seen a death affect the world the way Kobe's did -- and that's taking MJ and Prince into consideration. To him, it just proves Kobe was THAT beloved.

He also told us, he'd gladly perform "Can't Say Goodbye" at Kobe's memorial service, if asked. We also asked him about releasing the track to the public -- and that's when he dropped a bombshell about his more than 30-year career. Brian says it's about to be a wrap, at least in the studio, after one more album ... which will include the Kobe tribute.

As for how serious he is about retirement -- we pressed Brian, and on a scale of 1 to 10 ... sounds like he's squarely a Cher.

Translation: Nothing's over till it's over, but for now ... his "final" album drops in May.

Brian McKnight Writes New Song for Kobe Bryant ... 'Can't Say Goodbye'


Brian McKnight is honoring his late friend, Kobe Bryant, with a new song that's guaranteed to get you crying all over again over the passing of a Los Angeles legend. Be warned ...

The R&B crooner wrote a tune specifically dedicated to Kobe -- and by extension, to the basketball star's daughter, Gianna -- called "Can't Say Goodbye." We got a video of Brian playing it on guitar, and it's incredibly touching and sweet. Check it out for yourself ... but again, waterworks.

In the video, Brian says he wrote the song ... but can't really take credit, because it wrote itself. The lyrics touch on saying other versions of "goodbye" without actually uttering the words themselves because it's just too hard and so final. Frankly, it's beautiful.

We're told, Brian put this together in the hopes that it will help people begin to heal from the loss.

Of course, Brian and Kobe had a relationship. The NBA superstar was once featured on one of Brian's songs back in 1997 called "Hold Me." KB had a rap verse on it toward the end.

He's also a huge Lakers fan in general and included a ton of footage of Kobe in a tribute video he put together to honor the City of Angels. That track's called "I Love LA."

With all that said, it's no wonder the death of Kobe has affected Brian the way it clearly has. No word if this song will make its way onto an album of some sort, but we expect it'll reach the masses eventually.

In the meantime, enjoy it here.

Mark Cuban 'I'd Support' Changing NBA Logo ... to Kobe Bryant


Well, this is a big deal ... Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he's on board with the movement to change the NBA logo to Kobe Bryant -- telling TMZ Sports, "I would support it."

Not only have MILLIONS of people signed a petition to have the league swap out the current logo which features an image of Jerry West, but a bunch of NBA stars have backed it as well ... from Paul Pierce to Jamal Crawford and more.

Outside of basketball, stars like Justin Bieber, Julian Edelman, Snoop, Usher, Meek Mill and more have joined the #ChangeTheLogo movement.

As for Cuban, he's already honored Kobe by retiring the #24 jersey in the Mavs organization (despite Kobe never playing for Dallas) ... and now he's down for an even bigger tribute.

"I just think it's so much more than basketball," Cuban told us ... "He brought so many people together."

Unclear exactly what it would take to get the league to make the move, but having one of the league's most influential owners get behind the push seems pretty significant to us.

Stay tuned ...

LeBron James Powerful Speech About Kobe Bryant ... Before First Game Since Death


9:20 PM PT -- Vanessa Bryant posted a photo of Kobe and Gigi's jerseys court side at Staples, writing ... "There is no #24 without #2. #GirlDaddy #DaddysGirl #MyBabies #OurAngels


9:15 PM PT -- Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth performed an emotional rendition of their hit, "See You Again" at halftime.

8:55 PM PT -- The love sent to the Bryant family was felt by Kobe's widow, Vanessa -- she posted purple and gold hearts on her Instagram story shortly after the Lakers' tribute.

The Los Angeles Lakers honored the late Kobe Bryant with a tribute before the first game following his death ... with emotional performances by Usher and cellist Ben Hong ... and a powerful speech by LeBron James.

The Lakers superstar took center court to address the fans in attendance ... and spoke straight from the heart, calling Kobe his brother and the event a celebration of his career.

"I got something written down, they asked me to kinda stay on course, or whatever the case may be," LeBron said. "But Laker Nation, I would be selling y'all short if I read off this sh*t, so I'ma go straight from the heart."

Celebrating Kobe's Legacy

"I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything, the countless hours, the determination to be as great as you could be."

"I wanna continue along with my teammates to continue his legacy. Not only for this year, but as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love, because that's what Kobe Bryant would want."

James finished his speech with the message -- "So in the words of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba Out' ... but in the words of us, 'Not forgotten.' Live on, brother."


Prior to LBJ's words, Usher performed a strong rendition of "Amazing Grace" while the video board showed a montage of the tributes that have popped up throughout the world, and Hong played while Bryant's on-and-off the court accomplishments flashed on the screen for all the fans to enjoy.

The Lakers then posted the names of all 9 people lost in the tragic helicopter accident and honored them with a 24.2 second moment of silence while the board showed the 2 courtside seats draped with Kobe and Gigi's jerseys.

Boyz II Men performed the National Anthem ... with all 3 members wearing the Kobe shirts handed out to every fan in attendance. Several players -- including LeBron -- broke down in tears during the performance.

The Lakers players honored Kobe by wearing Kobe's #8 and #24 jerseys during warmups ... and each player was announced as Kobe Bryant for the starting lineups.


LeBron wore Kobe's signature shoes, which might be the first time he's worn anything other than his own sneakers in an NBA game.

The Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers followed other teams' lead by opening the game with 24-second shot clock and 8-second violations.

Kobe's #8 and #24 were displayed on the court ... as well as a "KB" badge on the players' jerseys.

The fans were shouting Kobe's name outside Staples before entering the arena ... and we have video of the emotional scene.


Carmelo Anthony -- who was very close with Kobe -- did not make the trip because he's still mourning Kobe's death.

James revealed his permanent tribute to Kobe before the game, a tattoo that reads "Mamba 4 Life."


The memorials outside Staples continued to pour through LA Live on Friday ... and TMZ Sports was able to capture some of them.

Originally Published -- 6:21 PM PT

Sylvester Stallone Kobe Should Get Statue In Philly ... Right Next To Rocky!!!


How cool is this?!?

Sylvester Stallone is SUPER DOWN to share the spotlight in Philadelphia with Kobe Bryant ... telling TMZ Sports the city should build a statue of the NBA legend right next to Rocky!!!

"Absolutely!!!" Sly says.


It'd be an amazing tribute ... while Kobe never played for the Sixers -- he grew up in Philly and starred at local Lower Merion HS as a teenager.

Kobe never shied away from his love for Philly despite playing his entire pro career in L.A. -- even reppin' the Eagles in his final appearance at a Lakers game at Staples before his death on Dec. 29.


We broke the story ... Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, were among nine people who tragically died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Sunday.

Tributes have come in all shapes and sizes since the 41-year-old's passing ... with NBA teams taking shot clock violations, players writing personal messages on their shoes and Staples Center plaza being packed with mourning fans.

But, a bronze bust right next to Rocky? Ya gotta think that might just top 'em all ... and now the city just got Sly's blessing for it.