Joe Johnson KD, Harden, Kyrie ... Best Scoring Big 3 In NBA History

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BOPPIN' IN BROOKLYN
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Ex-NBA star Joe Johnson says Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving are already the most lethal scoring big 3 in NBA history ... telling TMZ Sports the Brooklyn Nets will be a serious problem for "any damn body."

It's a huge statement coming from Johnson -- after all, the Golden State Warriors won 2 'ships with the offensive juggernaut of KD, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson ... and very well could have won more if everyone had stayed healthy.

JJ says the entire league -- including LeBron James' Lakers -- will struggle to stop Brooklyn's trio of superstars ... but there's one major issue keeping them from being a lock to win the Larry O'Brien trophy this season.

"They can score the ball, it's just getting stops," Johnson told us at LAX on Thursday. "That's gonna be their biggest problem the whole season."

Johnson isn't ready to call them the best overall big 3 in the game, but scoring-wise?? Hell yeah.

"No question. The best three isolation, get-a-bucket -- yeah you're not gon' get better than this."

When asked what this means for LeBron's quest for ring #5, Joe keeps it real.

"S***, they're gonna be a problem for any damn body. Not just the Lakers. But, like I said, the Nets, they'll figure it out over the course of the season and they'll get things rolling. Right now, they still tryna find themselves."

There's more -- we also spoke with Johnson about the status of the next Big 3 season ... and any fans of Ice Cube's 3-on-3 league will wanna peep his response.

LaVar Ball LaMelo Should Be A Starter 'My Boys Are Not Freakin' Role Players'

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SUPERSTAR MENTALITY
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LaVar Ball says his son, LaMelo, is pissed off about coming off the bench during his stellar rookie season ... telling TMZ Sports it's about damn time he gets his spot in the starting lineup.

The youngest Ball bro has easily been one of the best rookies so far in 2021 -- the #3 overall pick in the NBA Draft is averaging nearly 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists through 14 games for the Charlotte Hornets.

We spoke with Papa Ball about Melo coming off the bench behind Devonte' Graham ... and he says while the 19-year-old isn't showing it on the outside, he's actually unhappy about the situation.

"My thing is he ain't happy with that, but he ain't go show that," Ball tells us. "If I train you to be the best and always been starting all your life -- here is what they don't get. My boys are not freakin' role players! They superstars! Let them do what they do!"

LaVar points out Melo could be held back due to Hornets coach James Borrego not having that -- oh, how should we say this -- Big Baller frame of mind.

"But, if your mentality ain't like that, guess what? It's hard to coach my boys and tap into the best because you don't have a killer mindset."

LaVar also talks about his other boys -- Lonzo and LiAngelo -- saying the brothers could still team up and dominate the NBA together ... and would even be able to beat the Brooklyn Nets big three.

Really.

Charles Barkley Reflects on Kobe Bryant 'It Was Like a Death In My Family'

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Charles Barkley says the 1-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant's death is hitting him pretty hard -- explaining, "It was like a death in my family."

"I’ve known Kobe his whole life" Barkley told "Ellen" on the episode that airs Friday ... "So, I've been around him for 30 years. So he was like part of my family."

Kobe -- along with 13-year-old daughter Gianna and 7 others -- passed away in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, almost 1 year ago.

Barkley told Ellen the NBA is a tight-knit community where players and staff become really close over the years ... "And any time someone on the NBA dies, it's painful."

As for Kobe, "He was a great kid, he was obviously one of the greatest basketball players ever," Charles said ... "But, you know when people die young, that's what hurts me."

"If you get to be a certain age and die, if you had a great life [that's one thing] ... but when you die really young, it just really sucks. Especially for his wife and his kids."

Barkley also wanted to pay his respects to the other 7 people on the helicopter -- saying, "There are other families who lost loved ones and I want to give them my thoughts and prayers [on the 1 year anniversary of the crash]."

RIP Kobe, Gigi, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester and Ara Zobayan.

NBA's Jaylen Brown On Social Justice Fight ... 'Keep Same Energy' Under Joe Biden

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Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown is VERY concerned people think Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump means the fight for social justice is over ... and he's begging people to "keep the same energy."

"I don't want to be pessimistic, but I think now having a new face [in the White House], people are taking their foot off the gas, thinking that everything is okay now," Brown said Thursday.

"I would like to challenge that. We still have a lot of work to do, regardless if Biden is in office or not."

Brown added, "Just because we have a new President doesn’t mean the system doesn’t need to be changed."

The 24-year-old star -- 3rd overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft -- has been one of the more outspoken NBA players when it comes to the fight for social justice ... famously peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd and then speaking out against the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Now that Donald Trump is out of office, Brown is concerned people are feeling a false sense of victory when it comes to racial issues in the U.S. ... and he's begging the community to step up.

"My dilemma was never with any presidencies or selections of different faces. It’s more about the system, I think, that needs to be changed."

He continued, "I know there was a lot of stress attached to our former president, potentially. But, I definitely want to keep the same energy up in terms of having the awareness and pushing forward for change."

"We gotta keep the same energy up. People still gotta care. People still need to make phone calls, you know, etc. So, I’m looking forward to continuing to fight for change."

The Celtics are off to a hot start this season and Brown has been one of the main reasons -- he’s averaging 25.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Shaq Hired By GA Sheriff's Office The Big Community Relations Director

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The Big Aristotle is now The Big Community Relations Director ... Shaquille O'Neal has been hired for the role by a sheriff's office in Georgia!!

A rep for the Henry County Sheriff's Office confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that the NBA legend will be starting the job ASAP.

Goal #1 for the former L.A. Lakers superstar, according to Sheriff’s spokesperson Eric Jackson? Have Shaq help bring the community closer.

"As a part of Sheriff [Reginald] Scandrett’s strategic plan, bridging the gap between the community and law enforcement is paramount,” Jackson told the AJC.

“Coupled with Dr. O’Neal’s philanthropy, Scandrett and Shaq have a specific plan to begin uniting the Henry County community.”

Cool gig for Shaq ... but of course, it shouldn't surprise anybody at all that he landed the role.

You'll recall, The Big Diesel has always had an affinity for law enforcement ... and has even been sworn in as a deputy or officer at several police agencies across the country through the years.

In fact, Shaq had once said it was his goal to ultimately be the Henry County Sheriff himself!!

The sheriff's office is holding a news conference to go more in-depth on Shaq's role in the department on Friday afternoon.

NBA's Enes Kanter Dating Ariana Rockefeller ... Oil Mogul's Great-Granddaughter

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There's a new lady in NBA center Enes Kanter's life ... and it's none other than Ariana Rockefeller, the great-great-granddaughter of oil mogul John D. Rockefeller!!

TMZ Sports has learned ... the 28-year-old Portland Trail Blazers player and 38-year-old fashion designer/equestrian have been seeing each other for several months now ... after initially meeting over social media.

Our sources tell us the two quickly bonded over animal rights advocacy ... something that both are very passionate about (Kanter recently opened up about switching to a vegan diet).

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

In fact, Susan Rockefeller, Ariana's aunt, recently commented on Kanter's pro-vegan Instagram post, saying "Keep inspiring 👍plants and food as medicine"

"thank you @arianarockefeller for sharing this❤️❤️❤️"

We're told Kanter spent much of the past NBA off-season in New York with Ariana ... and the couple have also spent time together in Portland during the season.

The new development has been unfolding for months in the IG comments ... but this is the first time they have gone "official" on the 'gram.

However, we're told the two are not *officially* official just yet ... in other words, no labels.

Rockefeller was previously married to entrepreneur Matthew Bucklin -- the couple divorced in 2019.

As for Kanter, he was reportedly tied to WWE's Dana Brooke until they split in late December.

Steph Curry Rocks Ultra-Rare POTUS Kicks ... To Celebrate Biden's Inauguration

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How'd Steph Curry show love to Joe Biden on inauguration day??

ULTRA-RARE KICKS, BABY!!!

The Golden State Warriors superstar busted out his 2-of-a-kind, famous Under Armour Curry 3 shoes for warmups before the Dubs took on the Spurs on Wednesday ... and the sneaks are clearly still as dope as ever.

FYI -- Curry teamed up with UA back in 2017 to make the special shoes -- creating them as a way to honor the end of Barack Obama's 2-term presidency.

Reportedly, only 2 pairs were ever made -- one for Steph and one for Obama -- and they were awesome ... featuring the presidential seal on the tongue as well as other nods to the former president all over them.

Curry hadn't been seen in the shoes since '17 ... but he apparently kept good care of them -- 'cause after Biden had been sworn in Wednesday morning, Steph took the court in the feet heat!

Curry -- who's big-time pals with Obama and a huge supporter of Biden -- laced them up pregame ... before transitioning into another pair of his signature shoes for game time.

Seems the POTUS kicks were good luck ... Curry balled out against San Antonio, scoring 26 points and adding 7 assists in the win.

Somewhere, we're sure Kamala Harris was proud as hell!

NBA's Hassan Whiteside Clowns Jabari Parker's Ride ... 'Cat In The Hat?!'

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WILD RIDE

"Boy is getting out of this Dr. Seuss, Monopoly-ass car!"

Hassan Whiteside went IN on Jabari Parker's ride as the Kings prepped to leave for L.A. on Tuesday ... clowning the hell out of the Sacramento star's vintage whip in the parking lot!!

"Where you get that from?" Whiteside asked Parker. "Cat in the Hat? That s*** fuchsia! Fuchsia!"

FYI -- the car is pretty cool to at least SOME people ... it appears to be a light pink, 1950 Chevrolet Carryall that we're sure cost Parker some pretty big coin.

But, didn't matter to Whiteside ... 'cause the grill sesh just kept on going!

"Hey, Jabari!" Hassan said. "You a trendsetter, man. A trendsetter!"

All the guys seemed to love the jabs -- everyone within earshot was cracking up!!

Of course, the Kings could certainly use the levity, they haven't had exactly the best start to the season ... going 5-9 through the first 14 games.

Maybe a little roast sesh is what's needed to turn the tide?!?

By the way, if this all sounds familiar ... it's 'cause it kind of is -- remember just a few weeks ago when Kyle Kuzma cracked on Anthony Davis for his whip?!

ROLLS ROASTED

NBA PLAYERS GOT JOKES!!!

VP-Elect Kamala Harris Steph Curry Gifts Custom Dubs Jersey 'We're All Rooting For You'

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The Golden State Warriors are finally returning to the White House ... courtesy of a one-of-a-kind gift to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris from NBA superstar Stephen Curry!!!

The Oakland native and HUGE Warriors fan is set to become the 49th -- and first female -- VP in the history of the United States on Wednesday ... and Curry came through with an unforgettable present that'll look reaaaally good hanging up in Harris' White House office.

The 3-time NBA champ surprised Harris with a video prior to Wednesday's inauguration ... presenting her with her very own #49 Warriors jersey with a "Madame VP" nameplate and an autographed message from Curry.

Of course, the Warriors' recent championship teams famously boycotted visiting the 1600 Penn during Donald Trump's presidency ... so it'll most likely be the first time any sort of positivity about the Dubs has entered the White House in a LONG time.

"Madame Vice President, I'm not saying you've got to put this up in your office at the White House, but it probably would be a good idea," Curry said in the video.

"Congratulations! Blazing your own path, we are all rooting and supporting you the whole way."

Worth noting -- the Dubs have recently moved to San Francisco, but are paying homage to their former home of Oakland with a special City Edition jersey this season ... which is what Harris received.

The soon-to-be VP pretty much freaked out in excitement over the gesture ... saying, "This means so much to me, you guys."

Curry also showed love for Harris following the results of the election in November ... sending her an autographed Curry #30 jersey. So, yeah, she may need a bigger closet just for her Dubs merch.

Harris continued ... "I will proudly, proudly display this in the office of the Vice President of the United States, an office I am about to occupy and I cannot thank you enough and you always bring such joy and pride to me, as a daughter of Oakland."

Kyrie Irving Apologizes To Fans After Nets Return ... 'Happy To Be Back'

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Kyrie Irving is officially BACK!!

After missing 7-straight games due to personal reasons, the Brooklyn Nets superstar made his highly-anticipated return on Tuesday ... and he's got a message for the fans.

"I am back, I am happy to be back, we got some great pieces and we move on and I let my actions and my game speak for itself like I planned on doing," Irving said, according to ESPN's Malika Andrews. "I just needed a pause."

Kyrie further explains he had "a lot of family and personal stuff going on, so just wanna leave it at that.”

Irving declined to speak about potentially violating the league's COVID-19 protocols by attending a birthday party for his sister ... saying he's ready to move forward.

It was a bizarre situation for first-year head coach Steve Nash, who initially admitted he had trouble communicating with the 28-year-old guard during his time away.

Irving says he has talked to his teammates and he's been welcomed back ... adding, "I have a conversation with each one of them and we move on."

Irving -- who has been active in numerous causes off the court during his career -- also spoke about the state of the country ... and delivered a strong statement about what really matters in his life.

Kyrie is expected to suit up for the Nets' next game Wednesday night ... which just so happens to be against his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Delonte West Lands Job With Rehab Facility ... In Florida

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Awesome step in the right direction for Delonte West -- the ex-NBAer is now employed by the same rehab facility he received treatment from late last year!!

As we previously reported ... Mark Cuban personally tracked down the 37-year-old at a Dallas gas station in September 2020 and helped the hooper reconnect with his mother.

SEPTEMBER 2020
HERE TO HELP
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Together, West's mom and Cuban convinced the former Dallas Maverick to seek treatment at the Rebound therapy center in Florida ... as an attempt to bounce back from hard times.

The progress was clearly visible -- with West smiling from ear-to-ear during activities like horseback riding, frisbee golf and kayaking as he took steps towards recovery.

Now, The Athletic's Shams Charania reports West will continue to surround himself within the Rebound family ... this time, as an employee.

The report also states West has maintained contact with Cuban and his family as he continues to work on his health.

Of course, West was the 24th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft ... playing for the SuperSonics, Mavs, Cavs and Celtics.

The guard fell on hard times in the years following his hoops career ... and members of the NBA community -- including Cuban, Doc Rivers and Jameer Nelson -- have been focused on trying to get West back on his feet.

The recent updates have been positive -- West was even spotted working on his jumper back in November ... and it's clear he has a strong support system behind him.

BACK TO BALLIN'
@og__chris19/Instagram

Keep it up, Delonte!

Kyrie Irving Buys Home For George Floyd's Family ... Says Stephen Jackson

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Kyrie Irving came through with an incredible gesture for George Floyd's family ... with Stephen Jackson revealing the NBA superstar recently bought them a new home.

Jackson -- who personally knew Floyd and referred to him as his "twin" -- vowed to be a father figure for George's 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, after George's death in May 2020.

But, the ex-NBAer says he's not alone in supporting Floyd's family ... joining Etan Thomas' "The Rematch" podcast to praise other huge names who have stepped up in support.

"I'm just continuing to do what I said I was going to do," Jackson said on the podcast. "I said I was going to be my brother's keeper and take care of his daughter and make sure that her next days are her best days."

"A lot of my friends ... Kyrie Irving bought them a house. Lil Wayne's manager bought them a Mercedes-Benz. Barbra Streisand gave them stock in Disney."

As we previously reported, Lil Baby also stepped up to throw a lavish party for Gianna's 7th birthday ... and Jackson says the kind gestures have helped her deal with the tragic loss of her father.

"I think God has definitely blessed her," Stack continued. "Right now, she's doing the best she's ever done. She's happy."

We've reached out to Kyrie's reps for more details ... so far, no word back.

Report: Kevin Porter, Jr. Food-Throwing Locker Room Outburst Team To Trade/Release Player

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Kevin Porter, Jr.'s time as a Cleveland Cavalier is all but over ... with the NBA player reportedly getting "combative" in a food-throwing incident in the team locker room.

KPJ hasn't played a minute of basketball this season due to "personal reasons" ... but returned late last week after his extended time away from the team.

According to The Athletic, 20-year-old Porter became super pissed when he arrived to the locker room on Friday and noticed recently-acquired Taurean Prince had taken over his locker ... and KPJ's new spot was among the "end of the bench" players.

The report says Porter started to yell ... and even threw food at one point.

Cavs GM Koby Altman and J.B. Bickerstaff tried to defuse the situation to no avail ... with the head coach being described as "shocked and disgusted" by Porter's comments.

Now, the team is washing their hands of the troubled rising star -- with the report saying the relationship will end either via trade or release.

Of course, it's been a rocky start to Porter's NBA career -- the 2019 30th overall pick was arrested in Ohio back in November following a one-car accident.

He faced multiple charges including improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and weed possession ... but eventually, all charges were dismissed.

Porter -- who was also briefly suspended for "conduct issues" during his freshman season at USC -- showed serious upside during his rookie season ... averaging 10 points in 23 minutes per game.

Story developing ...

Karl-Anthony Towns NBA Star Tests Positive For COVID ... 'It Breaks My Heart'

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Devastating news for Karl-Anthony Towns ... the NBA star announced he's tested positive for COVID-19 ... just 9 months after his mother passed away from a lengthy battle with coronavirus.

The 25-year-old says he received the news prior to the Minnesota Timberwolves' matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies -- which has been postponed -- and will isolate and follow all protocols immediately.

"I pray every day that this nightmare of a virus will subside and I beg everyone to continue to take it seriously by taking all of the necessary precautions," KAT said Friday.

"We cannot stop the spread of this virus alone, it must be a group effort by all of us."

KAT's mother, Jacqueline Towns, contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and was put in a medically induced coma due to complications.

She tragically passed away on April 13.

KAT's father, Karl, Sr. also previously tested positive for the virus ... but made a full recovery.

Towns continued ... "It breaks my heart that my family, and particularly my father and sister continue to suffer from the anxiety that comes along with this diagnosis as we know all too well what the end result could be."

3/24/20
A PLEA TO THE PEOPLE

Towns sends an incredibly powerful message to his family ... vowing to beat the virus and be there for his loved ones moving forward.

"To my niece and nephew, Jolani and Max, I promise you I will not end up in a box next to grandma and I will beat this."

Vanessa Bryant I'm Struggling with Grief, Like So Many But Finding 'Reason to Live'

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As the anniversary of Kobe and Gianna Bryant's deaths approaches, Vanessa's sharing her daily battle to cope with such heartbreaking loss ... and offering some advice.

Vanessa says ... "Grief is a messed up cluster of emotions. One day you're in the moment laughing and the next day you don't feel like being alive."

She then speaks directly to people who understand her pain, adding ... "Find your reason to live. I know it's hard. I look at my daughters and I try to push through that feeling for them."

As you know ... Vanessa's husband and 13-year-old daughter were both killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 along with 7 others, including the pilot.

From time to time, Vanessa's shared her efforts to pick up the pieces and care for her and Kobe's 3 other girls ... but she's never spoken this openly about her struggle with grief.

Vanessa closed her post with a motivational message -- "Death is guaranteed but living the rest of the day isn't. Find your reason."

Charles Barkley NBA Players Should Skip Line For COVID Vaccine ... They Pay More Taxes!!!

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12:44 PM PT -- TMZ Sports followed up with Smith about his partner's comments ... and while he disagrees with Chuck's reason for getting pros the vaccine first, the Jet makes a different point.

"These are the healthiest people in the world. You don't need the vaccines first," Smith said at LAX. "However, the only thought process of that is if you're allowing sports to participate in the country, you do become a super spreader because you're going to city to city."

HERE'S MY TAKE
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"If your job is taking you from city to city on a daily basis, then that would make sense why they should be at the front of the line, even before football."

The Jet says he spoke with Chuck off-cam about why he disagrees with his point ... and they were able to come up with an understanding of each other's views.

Hall of Famer Charles Barkley says NBA and NFL athletes deserve preferential treatment with COVID-19 vaccines ... claiming it's only fair considering how much they pay in taxes.

The NBA is currently dealing with a COVID nightmare ... with at least 10 games being postponed due to positive tests or close contacts through less than a month of play.

The "Inside The NBA" analysts were discussing the status of the league following the Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets game Thursday night ... when Chuck gave his eye-opening take.

"We need 300 million shots, give a thousand to some NBA players ... NFL players, hockey players," Barkley said. "As much taxes as these players pay, they deserve some preferential treatment."

Kenny Smith followed up by questioning if that's fair when it could literally be a "life or death" situation for regular folk who don't have the same resources as pro athletes ... but Barkley doubled down.

"We can't go there," Smith clapped back. "I don't think you can go there."

Barkley noted he personally believes 1,000 vaccines to NBA players would not take away from at-risk or elderly people who could benefit more from the vaccine ... and claims his plan would keep the season alive.

Of course, both NBA and NFL commissioners Adam Silver and Roger Goodell have already shot down the idea of giving their players vaccines while essential workers and others wait in line.

The NBA recently modified its health and safety protocols after 16 players tested positive for the virus ... but Chuck clearly thinks more needs to be done to save the season.

Originally Published -- 7:09 AM PT

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