BBall Star Aaliyah GaylesUSC Hoops Recruit Makes 1st BasketSince House Party Shooting

FIRST SWISH

✅ First step
✅ First basket

Good luck trying to slow down Aaliyah Gayles ... the top USC hoops recruit just knocked down her first basket since being shot 10 times at a Las Vegas house party in April.

Gayles' progress over the last two months has been amazing ... and on Monday, the 18-year-old guard shared video via Instagram of another milestone reached -- first made shot.

"Who said I couldn't get back into it?" Gayles said in the caption.

"First Shot in months feel like I'm proving."

The 5-star recruit hasn't played a game since the Jordan Brand Classic on April 15, the night before she was shot 10 times, in both arms and legs, at a house party in North Las Vegas.

ROAD TO RECOVERY

Since the shooting, Gayles -- who's still committed to playing for the USC Trojans -- graduated from Spring Valley High School and took her first steps out of her wheelchair following grueling rehab.

And, as you can see, the #8 ranked player in the 2022 class is ready to ball again!

#LoveToSeeIt

Deion SandersThanks Ja Rule For Donation To JSU FB... 'True Blessing'

Deion Sandersis giving big thanks to Ja Rule -- after the rapper just announced he'll be donating money to the Jackson State football team!!

The New York rapper shared the news on Friday via Instagram ... saying some of the money he makes off his upcoming NFT collection will go to several HBCUs, including JSU.

"Be a part of something Beautiful… July 14th get on the Blacklist NOW," Ja Rule said.

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

Ja says there are 1,000 1-of-1 NFTs up for grabs ... and part of the proceeds will help support HBCUs like Hampton, Morgan, Spelman, Moorehouse, and Jackson State.

Sanders -- who has been the head football coach of the Tigers since 2020 -- was stoked about the news ... and praised the award-winning rapper for the amazing gesture.

"I wanna thank my brother Ja Rule for hitting me up and including our program in his heart along with several other HBCUs," the former NFL star said.

"My brother I’ve always admired and applauded you from afar but this is a TRUE blessing for our TEAM."

"God bless u my brother!!!"

This is another big donation from a rapper for the Tigers team this week ... during the BET Awards on Sunday, Diddypledged $1 million to the JSU team and Howard University.

NFL's Jaylon FergusonDied Due To Fentanyl, Cocaine Mix... Ruled Accident

Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson died last month due to "the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine," officials announced on Friday.

In a statement to TMZ Sports, a spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Maryland added the death was ruled an accident.

No further details were made available.

As we reported, Ferguson was found unresponsive at a Baltimore residence on June 21 and, according to cops, never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead by medics on the scene.

At the time, cops did not suspect foul play ... and added they were investigating the possibility that Ferguson had suffered an overdose.

He was just 26 years old.

Jaylon was selected by the Ravens in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft ... and played in 38 total games for the team the last three seasons, tallying 4.5 sacks and 67 tackles.

He had previously starred at Louisiana Tech, where he set the NCAA record for most career sacks.

RIP.

Jamaal CharlesCelebrated Arch Manning Pledge W/ UT Legends... Vince Young & Orakpo!!!

BIG BAG BOUNCE BACK
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Just how big was Arch Manning's Texas commitment this week? Former UT superstar Jamaal Charles said he and other Longhorn legends straight-up had a celebration over it in a group chat!!

The ex-running back tells TMZ Sports ... in the hours after Manning made the pledge on Thursday, his GC with Vince Young, Brian Orakpo and Chris Ogbonnaya went off.

"Anybody that went to UT that played ball, they lying if they say they ain't happy right now," said Charles, who starred at the university in the mid-2000s. "The guys -- we've been texting today like, 'Hey, y'all just seen what happen?'"

"I'm like, man, Texas got that big bag, then!"

Charles wouldn't guarantee the Manning commitment will eventually bring a title -- after all, the 18-year-old quarterback has yet to even graduate high school -- but he did say he expects Peyton and Eli's nephew to bring plenty more top recruits with him.

As for a message to the future Longhorns star, Charles kept things short and sweet ... "Congrats and I hope you bring back the tradition of making this one of the top programs again."

"We need that and hopefully, we can see you in the national championship cheering you on."

Hook 'em!

Edgerrin JamesMy Son Will Play W/ Arch Manning In NFL... I Guarantee It!!!

RUN IT BACK!!!
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Ready or not, there will be another Manning-James backfield in the NFL coming soon ... so says Edgerrin James, who's guaranteeing to TMZ Sports that it will happen!!!

James told us out in NYC that he believes his son, Eden James, and Peyton Manning's nephew, Arch Manning, will rekindle the legendary James-Manning connection in the league in just a few years.

"I'm calling it right now," Edgerrin told us. "They're both going to be in the NFL together. The next wave -- 2.0!"

Edgerrin, whose son will be a freshman running back on the Howard Univ. football team this year, made the promise just hours after Arch, the top-ranked QB in the 2023 H.S. class, committed to Texas.

"When I saw Arch Manning coming out in 2023, I have my son that's at Howard, so I said it's going to be a reconnection in the future," Edgerrin said. "You're going to see my son -- you're going to see James-Manning connection."

Of course, the first iteration of Manning and James went extremely well ... Edgerrin lined up in a backfield with Peyton from 1999 to 2005 in Indianapolis -- and the pair piled up gaudy numbers together.

THE EDGE OF NFT'S
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Seems Edgerrin -- who, by the way, also told us about a cool NFT project he's been working on with Upstream -- can't wait for Round 2 to go down.

Pencil it in for roughly 2026!

Arch ManningPeyton And Eli's Nephew ...Committed To Texas

Huge news in the college football world ... Peyton and Eli Manning's nephew, Arch Manning -- the top H.S. football player in the country -- has committed to Texas.

The 18-year-old quarterback just made the decision ... announcing the oral pact in a six-word tweet Thursday morning.

In his announcement, Arch included a picture of him in a Longhorns T-shirt ... adding, "#HookEm."

The move has potential seismic ramifications for the college football landscape ... because Arch is just that good.

He's rated as both the #1 H.S. quarterback in the nation, as well as the #1 H.S. football player overall by all of the major scouting services.

Arch -- whose dad is Cooper Manning -- has been tearing defenses for years at Isidore Newman H.S., the same Louisiana school that Peyton, Cooper and Eli (as well as Odell Beckham Jr.!) all attended.

Arch had scholarship offers from every major program in the U.S. ... and ultimately picked Texas over his other two reported finalists, Alabama and Georgia.

Arch won't be eligible to play for the Longhorns for another year -- he's still got to finish up his senior season in Louisiana -- but when he gets there, watch out ... another Manning has arrived!

Jaylon FergusonRavens LB Dead At 26... Cops Not Ruling Out Possibility Of Overdose

UPDATE

9:23 AM PT -- In a second update to TMZ Sports, the Baltimore Police Dept. says "investigators are not ruling out the possibility of an overdose."

UPDATE

7:18 AM PT -- The Baltimore Police Dept. tells TMZ Sports ... officers responded to a Baltimore residence at around 11:25 PM on Tuesday regarding a report of a "questionable death."

UPDATE

Police say when they arrived on scene, they found Ferguson unresponsive while being treated by medics.

UPDATE

"Ferguson never regained consciousness," cops say, "and was pronounced dead on the scene by medics."

UPDATE

Cops say they do not suspect foul play at this time. They added there were no signs of trauma.

Baltimore Ravens pass rusherJaylon Ferguson has tragically died at 26 years old, the team announced on Wednesday.

No details surrounding his death were released.

"We are profoundly saddened by the tragic passing of Jaylon Ferguson," the Ravens said in a statement early Wednesday morning.

"He was a kind, respectful young man with a big smile and infectious personality."

The team added, "We express our heartfelt condolences to Jaylon's family and friends as we mourn a life lost much too soon."

Ferguson was picked by the Ravens in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft ... and played in 38 total games for the team the last three seasons, tallying 4.5 sacks and 67 tackles.

Prior to his NFL career, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound athlete was a superstar at Louisiana Tech Univ.

Ferguson recorded 45 total sacks in his career there, making him the NCAA career sacks leader. The school mourned his death in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

"We will remember his God-given talents on the field and his infectious personality off of it," the university said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

2/15/19
I'M A NEW MAN
TMZSports.com

TMZ Sports actually spoke with Ferguson just before he was drafted back in 2019. At the time, he had been mired in a bit of controversy due to an arrest during his freshman year at Louisiana Tech that was preventing him from fully participating in the NFL combine that year.

But, he was kind and humble during our conversation, and explained he was looking at the whole situation from a positive perspective.

RIP

Originally Published -- 5:52 AM PT

Caleb SwaniganDead At 25... Ex-Purdue Star, Former NBA 1st-Round Pick

Tragic news ... Caleb Swanigan -- the former Purdue star who was later picked in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft -- has died at 25 years old.

A spokesperson for the Allen County Coroner’s Office in Indiana tells TMZ Sports ... the ex-Boilermaker center died of natural causes.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, the Purdue men's basketball team said Swanigan passed on Monday night.

"Devastated," the school's team's account wrote in a tweet. "Our thoughts and prayers to Caleb Swanigan’s family and friends. The world lost a gentle soul last night. Love you Biggie."

Purdue head coach Matt Painter added in a statement, "Biggie had a positive influence in everyone's life. Was such a thoughtful person and gentle soul who had to overcome so much in his life. He will be greatly missed."

Before starring at Purdue, Swanigan compiled one of the greatest high school basketball careers ever in the history of the state of Indiana.

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound hooper was a five-star recruit, who earned McDonald's All-American honors after averaging 22.6 points and 13.7 rebounds per game in his senior season.

During his two years with the Boilermakers, Swanigan averaged 14.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He was eventually taken by the Portland Trailblazers with the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Swanigan played in the NBA with the Trailblazers and the Sacramento Kings until 2020.

Damian Lillard, who played with Swanigan in Portland, paid homage to Swanigan in an Instagram post Tuesday ... writing, "Rest In Peace Big."

The Trailblazers added in a statement, "We are heartbroken by the passing of former Trail Blazers player Caleb Swanigan. Our thoughts and prayers are with Caleb’s family, friends and all who loved him. Rest In Peace, Biggie."

Off the court, Swanigan had a music career -- rapping under the name "Slyy5jackk." He released several songs including "Thoughts/THOTS" and "My Life" in 2021.

Swanigan had just put out a music video called "Acquired Taste" in April ... and according to the rapper's IG, a new project was coming soon.

#RIP

Darius LeeCollege Basketball Star Dead At 21... Shot & Killed In New York

Houston Baptist men's basketball star Darius Lee was tragically shot and killed while at a gathering in New York on Monday, the university confirmed.

He was just 21 years old.

According to the NYPD, the shooting occurred at what appeared to be a barbeque in Harlem at around 12:40 AM.

Cops say when they arrived on the scene following reports of gunfire, they found nine people -- seven males and two females -- suffering from gunshot wounds.

Lee, who was ID'ed by Houston Baptist as one of the seven injured males, was transported to a nearby hospital after being struck in the chest by a bullet. He was sadly pronounced dead there, cops say.

Police say a firearm was recovered at the site of the shooting, but no further details regarding the incident were revealed. Cops say they've yet to make any arrests and an investigation is ongoing.

Houston Baptist officials mourned Lee's death on Monday, with men's basketball head coach Ron Cottrell calling the 6-foot-6, 230-pound wing "a remarkable young man."

"We are in shock and cannot wrap our heads around this news," Cottrell said. "My heart breaks for his mom, his sister and his entire family, and for our basketball team. The only thing we find comfort in right now is knowing where Darius is. He is in the arms of Jesus… we know that as fact. And we will see him again some day."

Lee was Houston Baptist's best player last season ... averaging 18.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The rising senior was expected to graduate in December, the school said.

"As great of a basketball player as he was, he was an even better person," Cottrell said. "I can't even think of basketball right now. I can only think of what a light Darius was during his short time on earth. He was a joy to coach and we loved him so much."

RIP.

Michael JordanUNC Debut Ticket Stub Hits Auction... Believed To Be Only 1 In Existence!!!

If Michael Jordan memorabilia from his time in Chicago doesn't excite you, then check this out -- a ticket stub from his first-ever game as a UNC Tar Heel has just hit the auction block ... and, it's believed to be the only one in existence!

The extremely rare piece is from the November 1981 UNC vs. Kansas game -- which was Jordan's debut on Dean Smith's Tar Heels hoops team.

The ticket is tattered and torn and has been given a poor 1 grading ... but since it's believed to be the only surviving stub from the night -- it could net a small fortune.

In fact, experts at Heritage Auctions say it could go for over $10,000!!

Jordan ticket stubs have been hot on the auction block recently ... earlier this year, a Chicago Bulls stub from Jordan's 1984 debut (one of 23 available) sold for $99,000.

As for Jordan's career at UNC, it was legendary ... during his three seasons, he averaged 17.7 points per game and shot 54% from the field. He also won the Naismith and Wooden College Player of the Year awards in 1984.

Of course, MJ's most memorable Tar Heels moment was when he made the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship against Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas.

Auction for the ticket ends on June 25 ... happy bidding!

Lia Thomas ScandalFINA Bans Trans Women Athletes ...Who Are Past Puberty Age

Lia Thomas' participation in women's swimming has reached a breaking point -- because the world's governing body for the sport has weighed in ... and their ruling is against her.

FINA -- French for the the International Swimming Federation -- came down with their decision this weekend regarding transgender athletes (specifically trans women) partaking in elite women's swimming ... and they say it's a no-go going forward, with caveats.

The org's new policy says male-to-female swimmers who transition before age of 12 or before the Tanner Stage 2 of puberty -- whichever comes later -- can compete in women's events. The reason ... they say there's no question a trans female athlete that has already gone through male puberty has an unfair physical advantage over cisgender females.

They reached this conclusion based on multiple studies, reports and presentations by 3 specialist groups, who offered their findings to FINA -- made up of members from 152 national federations -- which then voted ... with a 71% majority in favor of this decision.

In the wake of this coming down, a rep for the Prez of FINA told AP, "This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair."

The spox adds, "They’re not saying everyone should transition by age 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully you wouldn’t be encouraged to. Basically, what they’re saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage." They clarified there are no trans women currently competing in elite levels of swimming ... presumably, meaning international competition.

One thing FINA is considering to be inclusive to trans swimmers ... an "open competition" category. It's ill-defined at this point, but they're tasking a team to investigate it further.

It's unclear if FINA's new rules are going to be adopted by agencies like the NCAA, which currently permits people like Lia to compete in collegiate swimming. She made history this year by winning a national title in women's swimming, the 500-meter freestyle.

In any case, some people are welcoming the news ... includingCaitlyn Jenner, who's been advocating for such change for a while now -- saying trans female athletes have an undeniable physical advantage over their cisgender competition, as have many others.

She wrote, "It worked! I took a lot of heat - but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period."

Lia herself doesn't appear to have commented publicly yet.

WNBA Star Sue BirdI'm Retiring ...'This Will Be My Final Year'

Sue Bird -- a 4-time WNBA champion and star guard for the Seattle Storm -- says she's retiring ... announcing Thursday she's hanging up her sneakers for good at the end of this season.

"I’ve decided this will be my final year," said Bird, who shared a photo of her hoopin' as a youngster.

"I have loved every single minute, and still do, so gonna play my last year, just like this little girl played her first."

The 41-year-old, who was a 2-time NCAA champion at UConn, was picked #1 overall back in 2002 ... and has played every year since for the Storm.

In her 19 years in Seattle, she piled up 12 All-Star selections ... and became the WNBA's all-time assists leader as well as the league's all-time leader in starts.

Her retirement will mark truly the end of one of the greatest basketball careers ever -- as Bird is one of only six players ever to win an NCAA championship, a WNBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal.

WNBA season is slated to end in September ... congrats on an amazing run, Sue!

Jason McElwain'06 ESPY Winner Hospitalized... After Serious Bike Accident

Jason McElwain -- the former basketball manager who went viral in 2006 after suiting up and scoring 20 points in a high school game -- broke nine ribs in a serious bicycle accident Monday afternoon ... but luckily, he was wearing a helmet, and is expected to make a full recovery.

According to USA Today, police in Greece, New York responded to a call of "a bicyclist who made contact with a motor vehicle."

The 34-year-old was transported to an area hospital ... where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

A spokeswoman for Strong Memorial Hospital confirmed Jason is listed in guarded condition at the facility ... meaning his status is extremely serious with an uncertain outcome.

Jason's brother, Josh, said he suffered 9 broken ribs, a broken scapula, and a punctured lung ... but he did not sustain injuries to his head or back, fortunately.

Josh said he's thankful Jason was wearing his helmet at the time of the accident ... fearing things could have been much worse for his brother.

Jason, who is autistic and now works as a motivational speaker, had one of the most memorable games ever as a senior at Greece Athena High School in 2006.

The teen scored 20 points in the team's final home game -- hitting 7 of 13 shots and channeling his inner Ray Allen, hitting 6 threes, earning him an ESPY award that year for best sports moment.

Josh says Jason is "not in pain" and is in good spirits ... but he will remain in Strong's Intensive Care Unit for about a week before kickstarting his lengthy road to recovery.

JaMarcus RussellI Used Lean To Deal With Injuries... Instead of Painkillers

JaMarcus Russell is opening up about his codeine use in college and the NFL ... saying he would drink lean to cope with injuries instead of taking painkillers.

Of course, the troubled history of Russell is well-known ... from his short venture with the Oakland Raiders (2007-2009) to being arrested in 2010 for possession of codeine syrup.

The 36-year-old says he first drank lean when he was just 14 -- when he accidentally grabbed it (thinking it was soda) from a cooler while hanging out with friends at a park in Mobile, Alabama.

"That was my first time drinking syrup," Russell said in the Players' Tribune. "Wasn’t the last time."

He added ... "Some syrup, for us, that’s like you might drink some wine or something. I’m not glorifying it, but back then, that was the cheapest way for them boys to sip on something. You grow up in poverty, you’re going to figure out a way to cope with it, you feel me?"

Russell says he eventually used codeine to deal with his pain in college ... days after injuring his shoulder in the 2005 SEC Championship Game.

"I was in so much pain that one morning I just said f*** it and took some drank with me to class," Russell said.

"Looked just like a soda from the cafeteria. I don’t know how the hell the teacher even found out, but somebody in class snitched on me."

Russell says LSU coaches found out about it and suspended him for the 2005 Peach Bowl.

"I ain’t no saint, but come on, man," he added. "They shoot your ass up with the strongest painkillers on earth just to get you out on the field. But, you’re drinking some cough syrup and now you’re a criminal?"

Russell says his drinking continued in the NFL ... claiming the team would hand out painkillers "like Skittles" ... but he preferred to do things on his own terms.

"Was I perfect? As a player? As a person? Hell no," Russell said. "I shouldn’t have been sippin’ like that, in the NFL. I should’ve stayed in better shape. I should’ve been more of a student of the game. I got to live with my mistakes. I’d do it 10 times differently today, if I was coming up in a different era."

Despite being labeled one of the NFL's biggest busts, Russell says he doesn't view himself as a failure ... and every choice he made led him to the world's biggest stage.

George ThompsonMarquette Hoops LegendDead At 74

George Thompson, one of the greatest players in the history of Marquette basketball, has died at 74 years old, the school announced on Wednesday night.

The university shared the sad news in a tweet ... saying Thompson passed away due to complications from diabetes.

"George made a tremendous impact, not only on the program, but the entire Milwaukee community after his arrival on campus," school officials said. "RIP Brute Force."

The Brooklyn native was a standout at Marquette from 1966 to 1969, playing under legendary coach Al McGuire. In 87 career games at the school, spanning three seasons, he averaged 20.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

He went on to be selected by the Boston Celtics in the 5th round of the 1969 NBA Draft ... but chose to start his pro career with the Pittsburgh Pipers of the American Basketball Association.

George spent 5 total seasons in the ABA -- playing for the Condors/Memphis Tams for 2 years -- before taking his talents to the NBA to play for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 3-time ABA All-Star only played one season with the Bucks, but his iconic #24 jersey hangs in the rafters at Fiserv Forum thanks to his storied career at Marquette.

Thompson -- a member of Marquette's Hall of Fame -- was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

RIP

Notre DameChanges Historic Fight Song... Adds 'Daughters' Line

One of the most recognizable fight songs in all of college sports is getting a makeover ... Notre Dame just announced its changing lines in its famous tune to recognize the university's "daughters."

The school just made the change official ... revealing Friday morning instead of singing "While her loyal sons are marching/Onward to victory" in the song, the line will now be sung as, "While her loyal sons and daughters/March on to victory."

Notre Dame officials say they made the change to the song -- which is played and sung continuously at Fighting Irish sports events -- in part to honor the 50th anniversary of the university's decision to admit female undergraduate students.

The song -- officially titled "Notre Dame Victory March" -- was first performed on the South Bend campus back in 1908. It was later played at ND sporting events starting in 1919.

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