Kobe Bryant Photo Trial Vanessa Sobs During Opening Statements ... Deputy Bragged About 'Piles of Meat' at Death Scene

UPDATE

4:49 PM PT -- An emotional Lakers GM Rob Pelinka took the stand -- barely able to speak when talking about how special his relationship with Kobe really was. Pelinka says he still considers Kobe to be his best friend, and that having Kobe as a friend was like knowing a super hero.

UPDATE

Pelinka revealed he was in church when he got a call about the helicopter crash, and rushed to meet Vanessa at John Wayne Airport. Pelinka says deputies took him and Vanessa close to the crash site, and were promised the area would be kept private.

UPDATE

Pelinka says Vanessa has fought to protect the beauty of her family, and if the photos from the scene were to get out, there's fear for what it could do to her daughters. He also revealed that in June 2020, Vanessa went to the site of the crash to touch the soil where Kobe and GiGi were before they went to heaven.

Vanessa Bryant dissolved into tears as her lawyer addressed the jury in opening statements, saying the 8 L.A. County Sheriff's deputies who took photos of the bodies of her husband and child took the pictures "for a laugh like they were souvenirs."

Vanessa's lawyer said the deputies "poured salt in an unhealable wound" by using their cellphones to take the photos for personal use. The lawyer described "pictures of broken bodies, close-ups of limbs and burnt flesh."

The lawyer played the deposition of a Sheriff's detective who said his wife didn't want to see the photos, and that's when he told her they showed "piles of meat."

The attorney says Vanessa lives "in fear, anxiety and terror" that someday she and her family will see the photos.

The lawyer said Vanessa's children were her everything, Kobe was her everything, and she will be forever haunted by what the deputies did.

The crux of the case involves L.A. County Sheriff's deputies who took photos of the bodies of Kobe and daughter Gianna at the crash scene and then shared them with colleagues. In one case, a deputy allegedly showed the photos to a woman at a bar, and the bartender is the one who blew the whistle on him.

Vanessa claims in the lawsuit ... the conduct of the deputies caused her severe emotional distress, adding it was an invasion of privacy. Lawyers for L.A. County responded by claiming Vanessa's emotional distress is rooted in the crash, not the photos.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law 2 years ago -- called the Kobe Bryant Act -- making it a crime for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene for purposes unrelated to the case.  The crime is punishable by a $1,000 fine.

Edmonton Oilers 6-Year-Old Super Fan Dies ... After Cancer Battle

Horrible news from the sports world ... Ben Stelter, the 6-year-old Edmonton Oilers super fan battling brain cancer has passed away, his father announced Wednesday.

"The world lost the most special boy and an absolute hero last night," Ben's dad wrote on social media.

He continued ... "Ben, you were the best son we could ever hope for, and you were my best bud ever. Your sisters were so lucky to have you as such a sweet brother."

"You fought so long and hard and beat so many odds," he added.

Ben -- who was diagnosed with glioblastoma (an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord) about a year and a half ago -- got a chance to meet the Oilers team in March, even accompanying team captain Connor McDavid onto the ice before a game.

That night, Ben -- gearing up for another stint of chemotherapy -- wore a custom Oilers jersey with his last name "Stelter" and the number 2 ... as the fans and players provided support and words of encouragement.

Ben attended many Oilers games throughout the season ... and became a good luck charm for the team, evidenced by their impressive record with him in attendance.

"Ben’s coming to the game tonight and has his eye on the cup," Mike wrote in June. "The @EdmontonOilers are 10-0 with Ben in the building at Rogers Place. #LetsGoOilers #BenOilersStrong."

The organization addressed Ben's passing online, Tweeting ... "We are mourning the passing of our dear friend, number one #Oilers fan, good luck charm & inspiration, Ben Stelter. Although small in stature, Ben's impact on our team & community were massive.  Play La Bamba, baby. 💙🧡"

The Oilers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Avalanche in game 4 of the WCF. Colorado went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Ben's presence will forever be missed on the ice and in the locker room going forward.

R.I.P.

Pete Davidson Steph Curry Signs Pink MJ Hoodie ... From Record-Breaking Game

Remember that hot pink Michael Jackson hoodie Pete Davidson wore courtside as Stephen Curry broke the all-time three-point record at Madison Square Garden??

The look just got a lot more iconic ... 'cause TMZ Sports has learned the comedian just got the Marcel Zago-designed threads signed by the Golden State Warriors superstar!!

Of course, the former "SNL" star hilariously stood out like a sore thumb when Steph broke Ray Allen's NBA three-point record on December 14 ... jumping to his feet and cheering after Curry hit #2,974 in front of the packed arena.

Considering Pete's pink look will forever be in the background of the special moment, we're told his people reached out to Steph's memorabilia partner, USA Sports Marketing, in hopes of getting the hooper to sign the hoodie ... and Steph happily obliged!!

USA Sports Marketing -- Steph's memorabilia partner -- tells us they received the sweater from Pete's camp to have Curry sign it ... and the 4-time NBA champ thought the idea was hilarious.

Curry and USA SM posed together with the hoodie ... and we're told it's going back to Pete, who will probably hold onto it forever.

Awesome.

Competitive Eating Man Gobbles Up 17 Ghost Peppers In 60 Seconds ... New World Record!!!!

SPICY SKILLS
Guinness World Records

A competitive eater is breathing a (fiery) sigh of relief today ... 'cause officials just revealed the man's insane ghost pepper meal back in November has officially become a new watermark.

Gregory Foster gobbled down 17 of the world's spiciest ingredient in one minute roughly nine months ago in San Diego ... and Guinness World Records formally crowned him the new king of heat eating on Wednesday.

It's great news for the guy -- because his run at the record was excruciating.

Check out video of his snack ... the peppers were packed with so much fire, he actually had to wear gloves for the occasion. Yet, somehow, he nearly ate the full plate -- consuming a total of 3.98 ounces -- in 60 seconds, barely beating the old record of 3.42 ounces.

"This attempt was solely a personal endeavour to achieve another Guinness World Record alongside my currently standing [ones]," Foster said after the record was announced Monday. "I love chilli eating and pushing myself."

Of course, Foster is used to feasts like these -- the two other Guinness records he holds are the most Carolina Reaper chilies eaten in one minute, and the fastest time to eat three Carolina Reaper chilies.

He's also the founder of Inferno Farms -- where they make sauces in the hottest flavors -- so, yeah, he's a glutton for this kind of stuff.

In other words, Shaq and Idris Elba don't stand a chance against this guy!

Trevor Bauer Assault Accuser Sues MLB Star ... For Battery

Trevor Bauer's assault accuser is firing back at the MLB star after he sued her earlier this year ... filing a countersuit for battery against the Cy Young winner in Los Angeles.

Lindsey Hill, from San Diego, filed a lawsuit for sexual battery and battery in federal court on Tuesday, again alleging 31-year-old Bauer beat her up on two occasions during sex, punching and choking her.

Bauer's always adamantly denied the allegations, maintaining he and Lindsey had a consensual, sexual relationship. The L.A. county district attorney's office investigated Hill's claims and opted not to file charges against the Dodgers pitcher. A judge also denied Hill a restraining order, calling claims in the petition "materially misleading"

In Hill's newly filed civil lawsuit, she claims her "life has been turned into a nightmare by a powerful man who mercilessly battered her and counted on facing no consequences whatsoever for his despicable conduct."

Lindsey claims Bauer got physical with her on two occasions ... in April and May of 2021.

"Last year, disgraced Major League Baseball player Trevor Bauer violently and sadistically abused Hill in the most appalling manner imaginable, sexually battering and battering a defenseless woman."

Hill doesn't specify how much she's seeking in damages.

Back in April 2022, Bauer sued Hill claiming she made up the damaging allegations in an effort to derail his career and secure a payday for herself.

Despite not being charged criminally, Bauer was hit with one of the longest suspensions in MLB history ... two years without pay. Trevor immediately appealed the suspension .. which is still ongoing.

He'd be eligible to return about 20 games into the 2024 MLB season.

Brett Favre I Had 'Thousands' Of Concussions ... In NFL Career

IT'S THE SMALL ONES
YouTube/TheBubbaArmy

Brett Favre says based on everything he's learned since he's retired, he believes he suffered "thousands" of concussions in his NFL career.

The Hall of Famer explained his theory on The Bubba Army radio show this week ... after he was asked how many serious head injuries he had while playing QB in the NFL.

Favre said if he had gotten that question a few years ago -- he would've said just three. But, after digesting recent studies on concussions, the 52-year-old believes the number is now actually in the four-figure range.

"Concussions happen all the time," Favre said. "You get tackled and your head hits the turf, you see flashes of light or ringing in your ears but you're able to play -- that's a concussion."

"So, based on that, [I've suffered] thousands," he continued. "Had to be, because every time my head hit the turf, there was ringing or stars going, flash bulbs ... but I was still able to play."

Favre was obviously never formally diagnosed with that many -- but he certainly did hit the turf a lot in his 20-year career. In his stints with the Falcons, Packers, NY Jets and Vikings, he was sacked 525 times just in regular season games alone.

One of Favre's scariest head injuries came in a 2004 game against the Giants ... when the Packers star threw a touchdown pass to Javon Walker after hitting his head -- something he didn't remember doing, according to then-Giants QB Kurt Warner.

"That's what's kind of frightening about the concussion thing -- it's the ones that seem minor that do the damage 'cause you're able to play and keep going," Favre said.

AUGUST 2021
PROTECTING OUR YOUTH
TMZSports.com

Favre has now famously become an advocate for head injury awareness -- pleading for a ban on youth tackle football in order to protect young brains.

Eli Manning I'm A Soccer Team Owner Now!!! ... Joins Gotham FC

TAKIN' THE REIGNS
Red Summit Productions

Eli Manning is going from football to futbol -- the two-time Super Bowl champ just revealed he's officially joining the NJ/NY Gotham FC ownership group.

The former NY Giants superstar was formally introduced as one of the club's newest minority owners on Wednesday ... alongside current Giants exec Pete Guelli, who's also taking a slice of the franchise.

Manning explained his reasoning behind the business move -- saying it made complete sense.

"I have lived and worked in this community for almost two decades," said Manning, who played his entire career with the G Men. "It's home to me, and Gotham FC is my family's favorite soccer club."

"Combine that with the organization's strong leadership, talented roster, and sustained growth, and it became clear that joining this great group was a fantastic opportunity."

Gotham FC chair Tammy Murphy is excited about bringing Manning on board ... saying, "Eli is known for the positive and influential impact he has on our communities."

"His legendary work ethic, drive for success, and passion for giving back to the community will be tremendous assets for our club."

Gotham FC exec Ed Nalbandian also lauded the new additions ... saying, "Having two people with track records like Eli and Pete recognize the value of our club and the strength of our brand speaks volumes about Gotham FC's upward trajectory."

"Their investment, influence, and additional resources will allow us to be even more successful on and off the field."

Manning and Guelli join big names like Kevin Durant and Carli Lloyd ... who also recently joined the ownership group.

Manning -- who spent 16 seasons with the Giants -- retired from the NFL after the 2019 season, but it's clear Eli still has a soft spot for the area.

Congrats, Eli!!

Cops: Frank Gore Dragged Naked Woman By Her Hair ... In Atlantic City Incident

Frank Gore grabbed a naked woman by her hair and dragged her across a hotel room's hallway during an altercation in Atlantic City, N.J. last month ... according to new, bombshell court documents obtained by TMZ Sports.

Cops say the incident between the NFL legend and a 28-year-old woman happened in the early morning hours of July 31 on the 59th floor of the Tropicana Casino's Havana Tower.

According to the docs, Gore "forcibly" gripped the woman by her hair ... before "violently dragging her nude person along the floor of the 59th hallway."

As we previously reported, Atlantic City Police said officers were initially called out to the scene at around 8:11 AM on the 31, but did not make any arrests after they said the woman "did not exhibit signs of injury."

Gore, though, was ultimately charged days later with simple assault after cops said they further investigated the allegations.

Gore, according to records, is due in court for a hearing in the case in October.

He's yet to publicly comment on the accusations.

The former 49ers star is considered one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time -- after rushing for 16,000 yards in his 16-season career. The 39-year-old has since become a boxer, winning his last fight in May over Yaya Olorunsola.

Gene LeBell Dead At 89 Legendary Stuntman, Martial Artist, Wrestler

The legendary "Judo" Gene LeBell -- possibly the most badass man to ever walk the earth -- has died at the age of 89, and some of the biggest sports stars in the world are showing love in light of his passing.

LeBell passed away Tuesday ... leaving behind an incomparable legacy in mixed martial arts and wrestling.

Nicknamed the "Godfather of Grappling," LeBell's journey to stardom began when he won the heavyweight and overall Amateur Athletic Union National Judo Championships in 1954 and 1955.

LeBell is widely credited with introducing catch wrestling and grappling techniques to pro wrestling and MMA.

Speaking of MMA ... long before Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock fought at UFC 1 (1993), Gene fought in the first televised bout in America in 1963.

Gene, with his judo and grappling, beat top-ranked light-heavyweight boxer Milo Savage.

LeBell also trained some of Hollywood's biggest names like Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee.

Gene and Bruce first met during filming of the TV show "The Green Hornet" ... and became friends, often training together.

He also served as the referee for Muhammad Ali's crossover bout with Antonio Inoki in 1976.

Gene, also an actor and stuntman, appeared in hundreds of movies (there's a totally unverified story about LeBell and Steven Seagal going at it on set -- look it up).

Expertise aside, LeBell was revered for his relationships with fighters and wrestlers over his storied career, most notably former UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

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Gene trained Rousey (a former Judo star) ... and he also worked with WWE legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, the inspiration for the "Rowdy Ronda" character.

On Wednesday, Ronda posted a photo of her and Gene together ... captioning the pic, "Legend."

Triple H, a 14-time WWE champ, took to Twitter to express his gratitude and appreciation for Gene's contributions to the industry over the years.

"Gene LeBell remained a towering figure in the history and expansion of mixed martial arts and sports entertainment," HHH wrote. "A teacher to many of the sport’s greats, his influence is felt throughout @WWE to this day."

"Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this time."

Incredible life.

Michael Jordan '98 NBA Finals Jersey Hitting Auction Block ... Could Fetch Over $3M

Michael Jordan's game-worn jersey from his last NBA Finals win is hitting the auction block -- and if you're interested, you better have deep pockets ... 'cause it's estimated to sell for over 3 million bucks!!

TMZ Sports has learned this Chicago Bulls gear is from Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals  -- also known as MJ's iconic "Last Dance" season.

MJ wore the red jersey when he banked 33 points against the Utah Jazz -- and even though the Bulls lost, they ultimately won the series, 4-2  -- Jordan's 6th NBA championship.

Sotheby's Auction says this rare piece is one of the most coveted items for collectors.

"Jordan's 1998 NBA Finals Game 1 jersey is among the most highly desired pieces of sports memorabilia," Sotheby's said in a statement, "and the present example is one of just two Finals jerseys to ever appear at auction, from any of his six championships."

And, come September 6, you'll get your chance to place your bid. The auction house estimates the jersey will sell for around $3 million.

Sotheby's says that's the highest appraisal for His Airness' jersey, but when it comes to the G.O.A.T., a Finals jersey doesn't come cheap.

Happy bidding!

Cody Simpson Gets Spot On Team Australia ... For Meet Against USA

If you haven't taken Cody Simpson's swimming career seriously yet, you definitely should now -- the singer will be representing Australia in a stacked head-to-head meet with the United States this month ... proving he's among the top talents in his country.

It's been a helluva year in the pool for Simpson -- the 25-year-old is fresh off winning a gold and a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games earlier this month ... after placing first in the 4x100 freestyle relay and second in the 4x100 medley relay.

The hot streak will continue for the former swimming prodigy-turned-teenage heartthrob ... as he's been selected to compete for his home country in a big exhibition against the United States -- the Duel In The Pool.

The event is set to go down at Sydney Olympic Park on August 20 and 21 ... and Australia head coach Rohan Taylor says those picked to compete should be honored.

"Any Australian team you make is special, but when presented with the opportunity to face our greatest rival in front of a home crowd I know these athletes will step up to the challenge," Taylor said. "Pressure is a privilege, and it is one we embrace."

Remember, Simpson just decided to get serious about swimming again back in 2020 ... and his personal best times have been drastically improving ever since.

The "Let Go" crooner has his eyes set on making the Australian national team for the Olympics in 2024 -- and it just might happen.

Pirates' Rodolfo Castro iPhone Flies Out Of Pocket During Game ... Whoops!!!

Bizarre scene in the Pirates game on Tuesday night -- a player's phone spilled out of his pocket while he was sliding into a bag ... and his manager was pissed about it!

Pittsburgh second baseman Rodolfo Castro committed the blunder in the fourth inning of the Buccos' tilt with the Diamondbacks ... when he went head first into third base.

As the 23-year-old was reaching the bag safely, his iPhone flew from his back pocket ... and hit the base at the same time as he did.

Castro -- who was just called up from the Minor Leagues for Tuesday night's game -- was initially oblivious to it all, but had to pick it up after an ump pointed out to him that it was on the ground. He then handed it over to his third base coach, who didn't appear pleased.

Following the game, which the Pirates ended up losing, manager Derek Shelton was clearly not thrilled with Castro either ... telling media members, "This was just a kid who made a mistake. It’s just one of those things we move forward from and tell him, 'You can’t do that.'"

Castro, meanwhile, said afterward he felt "horrible" about the incident ... and added that it was completely unintentional.

Of course, outside of the unprofessional look of having a phone out during the middle of playing in an MLB game ... the league has become highly sensitive to technology use in the field of play (thanks, Astros).

Castro seems unlikely to face punishment from the MLB, however ... and if you're wondering why the ball player might be a little tardy getting back to texts on game nights going forward -- now ya know why!

Dr. Fauci My Throwin' Arm's Improved!!! Redeems First Pitch Debacle W/ Toss At Mariners Game

Dr. Anthony Fauci's no longer havin' trouble with the curve -- 'cause after he epically botched his first pitch effort in D.C. in 2020, he was able to redeem himself with a respectable toss at the Mariners game on Tuesday night.

Fauci took the bump just before the M's played against his childhood favorite Yankees in Seattle -- and while he didn't exactly look like Gerrit Cole out there, the pitch was MUCH better than his first go-around two years ago.

You'll recall, at that Yanks vs. Nationals game in Washington, Fauci threw a ball so poorly, it landed some 10-15 feet away from home plate. The COVID-19 expert was dragged for the throw, with social distancing jokes continuously flying following the terrible heave.

But, Fauci has clearly worked on his arm since -- and was nearly able to throw a lollipop strike to Mariners manager Scott Servais at T-Mobile Park.

Fauci gave a fist pump following the toss -- and Servais was stoked for him, congratulating him, and then getting him to sign his mask!

As for how the doc was received at the game ... there was a smattering of boos from the crowd, but overall, it seemed to be a pleasant evening for Fauci -- who got to see the home team win a 1-0, 13-inning thriller.

Congrats on the redemption throw, Doc!

NFL's Frank Gore Charged With Simple Assault ... Allegedly Involved In Dom. Violence Incident

NFL legend Frank Gore has been hit with an assault charge ... after cops say he was involved in a domestic violence incident with a 28-year-old woman last month.

The Atlantic City Police Dept. tells TMZ Sports ... back on July 31 at around 8:11 AM, officers were called to the Tropicana Atlantic City in New Jersey regarding a report of a domestic violence dispute.

Cops say a 28-year-old woman, who they did not identify, was speaking with hotel security ... but "did not exhibit signs of injury and complaints were not filed at the time."

Police, though, say after an investigation was launched ... Gore was ultimately charged this week with simple assault "related to the domestic violence incident."

No further details regarding the allegations were revealed.

According to court records, the 39-year-old former San Francisco 49ers superstar is due for a hearing on the matter in mid-October.

Gore is widely considered one of the greatest NFL running backs ever -- he played 16 seasons in the league, and rushed for 16,000 yards ... the third-most all-time.

Since he last played in the 2020 season, Gore has become a boxer. In his first fight in 2021 with ex-NBA star Deron Williams, he lost via split decision. He later recorded a highlight reel knockout in his second-ever fight against Yaya Olorunsola earlier this year.

Jake Paul My New Gambling/Media Biz Will Surpass $1 Bil

THE 'BETR' WAY
TMZSports.com

"This is gonna be a billion-dollar company. I know it. I feel it."

That's Jake Paul proclaiming his new company, "Betr" -- aiming to not just turn the betting world on its head, but also sports media -- will one day be worth at least 10 figures.

TMZ Sports talked to the 25-year-old Problem Child and his partner Joey Levy ... who broke down the new venture.

"We announce our new company Betr which has two parts. One is sports betting and online casino and the other is a media content factory. We plan on taking over the sports world and changing it forever. Bringing new sports content," Jake told us.

Levy says Betr will focus on so-called "micro bets" ... which allows bettors to put money down on wagers during a game.

"We kind of view micro betting as the TikTok-ification of sports betting, and kind of like the final level of introducing instant gratification to the sports betting experience."

(Instead of betting on the Yankees to beat the Red Sox ... think putting money down on whether Gerrit Cole's next pitch is a strike.)

That's half of the new biz. The other part is Jake's show.

"We already got some big guests lined up for the next couple of weeks. Anyone from the heavyweight champions of the world in boxing to rappers. I'm bringing everyone on the show to talk about sports," Paul told us.

"I don't wanna do the long drawn-out sports show. I want it to be quick, easily digestible, you know, 20, 30, 40 minutes, and just fun. A fun sports show."

And, Paul says his show will be very different than any sports show that's existed in the past.

"These sports show hosts are stuck in their set, they can't get drunk and talk about sports, they can't curse even. How you supposed to talk sports without cursing? So that's where we're really changing the game."

The company has already raised $50 million ... with investments from some big celebs like Travis Scott and Ezekiel Elliott.

"This is, I think, my biggest undertaking yet. My biggest project yet and we got a fantastic team and Joey's an amazing CEO so the sky's the limit here."

Marshawn Lynch Car Had Missing, Flat Tires ... During DUI Arrest

Marshawn Lynch's car appeared undrivable by the time cops arrived and busted him for DUI on Tuesday ... with one tire completely missing, and at least one other flattened.

TMZ Sports has obtained pictures of the 2020 Shelby GT500 cops believe Lynch was driving prior to his arrest ... showing the front-left wheel's rim resting on the pavement, with no tire in sight.

Witnesses tell us they saw Lynch parked at the scene around 5:45 AM -- roughly two hours before his arrest -- and claim at one point, the running back exited his car to sit on the curb with the driver-side door wide open.

We're told Lynch remained at the scene until cops arrived ... who ultimately determined he was impaired and arrested him for driving under the influence.

We're told Lynch left a trail of damage on the road until his car reached its resting point ... with visible marks on the pavement and curbs. As we previously reported, sources say Lynch was driving into roadside curbs prior to the arrest.

Lynch was taken to jail and booked for DUI -- he's also facing charges of failure/refusing to surrender proof of security, unregistered vehicle and failure to drive in a travel lane.

His court date has been set for December.

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