THE OTHER STUFF . . .

Prince William Admits He Can't 'Beat' Wife Kate Middleton at This Sport. The royal couple never hesitate at a chance to go head-to-head in sporting events. Game, set, match -- to Kate Middleton! The royal mom's love of tennis is no secret -- she's a regular at Wimbledon, patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and even has a tennis court at the country home she has with Prince William. And she's not afraid to show off her own skills on the court. Australian former tennis star Rod Laver revealed just how good the Duchess of Cambridge is -- admitting that she always wins against her husband. "I'd met William and Kate a few times, and in the Royal Box you get a chance to chat with them a little bit," the Australian athlete told the Daily Mail. "They play tennis against each other. William told me he couldn't beat her." Kate, 38, and Prince William, 37, never hesitate at a chance to show off their competitive sides and go head-to-head in sporting events. During a boat race during their royal tour of Poland and Germany in July 2017, Kate made it clear that she wasn't going easy on her husband. "No pressure, but I do want to beat my husband," she told the crew. (Unfortunately for her, Prince William and his crew were victorious.) The couple faced off in a charity sailing race this summer, acting as skippers of competing vessels to win the King's Cup. Despite their royal status, neither William nor Kate took the top prize. However, coming in third, William did place higher than Kate, giving him bragging rights around the palace! During the prize-giving ceremony, Kate graciously collected a giant wooden spoon -- the prize designated for the captain whose team finished last. In 2017, Prince Harry got in on the action when the royal trio stopped by the start line of the London Marathon Community Track in the shadow of the 2012 Olympic Stadium in support of Heads Together, their campaign to highlight mental health. They ran the first leg of a five person relay, with Harry finishing ahead of his brother and sister-in-law, with Prince William coming in second and the duchess placing third. However, it was a tight race. "You nearly beat me!" William playfully said to Kate on the finish line before joking to his teammates that he had tunnel vision during the race. Kate is already passing her love of tennis down to her children. She reportedly shared at Wimbledon this year that 6-year-old son Prince George's favorite player is Roger Federer -- and the little royal has even played tennis with the sports star! (People)

Meghan Markle Is 'Actively Looking' for a Manager or Agent After Royal Exit. Is Meghan Markle ready for her close-up? The retired actress has indicated that she is considering a return to the Hollywood spotlight after stepping down from the British royal family with Prince Harry. "Meghan is actively looking for representation. She has begun outreach," a source tells Us Weekly exclusively, as first revealed on Us' "Hot Hollywood" podcast. "It can be a manager or an agent, but she's reaching out to people to find someone to represent her for future professional projects." Harry, 35, first raised eyebrows in July 2019 when he informed Disney CEO Bob Iger at the Lion King premiere in London that Meghan, 38, "does voiceovers." He then gestured toward the Suits alum, who was speaking with Beyonce and Jay-Z nearby at the time, and said, "She's really interested." Iger, 68, seemed game, telling the prince, "Sure. We'd love to try." The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also spoke with The Lion King director Jon Favreau at the event. During their conversation, Meghan joked, "That's really why we're here -- to pitch." Less than six months later, The Times of London reported that the former Deal or No Deal briefcase model signed a voiceover deal with Disney in return for a donation to Elephants Without Borders, a charitable organization dedicated to conserving wildlife and natural resources. Meghan made her acting debut in a 2002 episode of General Hospital. After years of booking small TV and movie roles, she got her big break in 2011 when she was cast as Rachel Zane on the USA Network legal drama Suits. Six years later, however, she retired to become a working member of the royal family. The Los Angeles native, who was previously married to movie director Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013, tied the knot with Harry in May 2018. A year later, they welcomed their son, Archie, now 8 months. The couple announced earlier this month that they intended to "step back as 'senior' members of the royal family and work to become financially independent" while dividing their time between the U.K. and North America. Queen Elizabeth II agreed to the transition, and Buckingham Palace later announced that Harry and Meghan would no longer use their His and Her Royal Highness titles. A source recently told Us exclusively that Meghan is "so happy" to embark on a new chapter, and Harry is "really excited" too. (UsMagazine)

Meghan Markle Isn't 'Very Cloe' With Mom Doria Ragland. Meghan Markle and mom Doria Ragland's relationship isn't as tight-knit as it may seem, multiple sources tell Us Weekly. "She's not very close with her mom," one source tells Us. A second insider notes that the 63-year-old yoga teacher, who lives in Los Angeles, "has no plans to relocate to Canada or anywhere for that matter" to be closer to her 38-year-old daughter. "She is currently giving private yoga lessons to a select few clients," the source says. "Doria would only see Meghan once or twice a year while filming Suits in Toronto. Meghan isn't as close to her mom as is known." Ragland did, however, attend Meghan's May 2018 nuptials to Prince Harry in Windsor, England. The Suits alum's dad, Thomas Markle, for his part, didn't walk his daughter down the aisle after he was caught staging photos with the paparazzi. While Thomas slammed Meghan and Harry's decision to step back from the royal family earlier this month, Ragland has yet to publicly comment on the news. Queen Elizabeth II confirmed on January 13 that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be spending more time in Canada and would no longer be using their HRH royal titles. "Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family. Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives," the 93-year-old monarch said in a statement. "It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK." While Meghan and Harry, who share 8-month-old son, Archie, don't have family around them in Canada, a source previously told Us that the duchess feels "free" after the couple's royal exit. "She has never been happier. She's happy to be out of London," the source said. "She was surprised at how quickly everything happened. They knew they'd have to relinquish their titles, but the pace it happened surprised everyone." For more on Harry and Meghan's new life, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly on newsstands now! (UsMagazine)

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss says losing Kobe Bryant is like losing a family member -- but credits KB and his daughter Gianna with helping her find her "purpose" in life. Jeanie has known Kobe ever since her father (the late Jerry Buss) signed him as a rookie back in 1996 and they had remained extremely close ever since. Jeanie took Kobe's death extremely hard and waited several days to collect her thoughts before putting out a statement ... and what she produced is touching, sad and inspirational all at the same time. "Kobe, I don't know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers, Buss wrote ... "My father loved you like a son, which makes us family." "When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away [in 2013], I was struggling to find motivation and purpose," Buss admits. "Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me. You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men." "At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter. But in actuality -- and I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doing -- what you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for. I reflect on that day often and it makes me smile and it makes me strong." Jeanie continued ... "I call on that memory whenever I feel down and need a bit of courage. For everything you did on the court that filled me with so much joy and love, for all the lives you changed through basketball itself, it was that day with Gigi that reignited my drive and determination." "Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri - I am so sorry for your loss. We are grateful to have you in our lives and we will always be here for you." "To the families that also lost loved ones on Sunday, the entire Laker family mourns with you. Laker Nation - we are one family grieving the loss of people we all loved dearly. We will mourn together, cry together but we will also heal together, love together and win TOGETHER. We love you." (TMZ)

Cristiano Ronaldo Just Reached a Major Instagram Milestone. What an honor! On Wednesday, Cristiano Ronaldo reached 200 million followers on Instagram, keeping his streak as the social media app's most followed person. To celebrate the major milestone, the professional soccer player shared a sweet post to thank his loyal followers. "Wow 200 million!!!" he wrote, sharing a video that featured a montage of pictures from his life and accomplished career. "Thank you to each and every one of you for sharing this journey with me every day!!" Back in 2018, the 34-year-old athlete earned his most followed title after dethroning Selena Gomez, who at the time, had over 144 million followers. Known for using the platform to give fans an intimate look at his personal and professional life, Ronaldo loves to post everything from behind-the-scenes game moments to endearing snapshots with his longtime love Georgina Rodriguez and their young children. And with his shirtless pictures from his intense workouts, it's not hard to see how Ronaldo reached the milestone number of followers. Ronaldo's impact isn't only exclusive to Instagram. Last month, the Portuguese soccer star was also featured on Brandwatch's list of the 50 Most Influential People on Twitter. Topping the list was Taylor Swift, who earned a score of 97 according to the digital consumer intelligence company's algorithm. Also making the top 10 was President Donald Trump, India Prime Minster Narena Modi, Katy Perry, Elon Musk, Lady Gaga, Ellen DeGeneres, Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian As for the most followed woman on Instagram, that title goes to Grande. She surpassed Gomez's 146 million followers in February 2019 when she earned her 146,286,173rd follower. At the time, Billboard reported that the Grammy-nominated singer saw a 13-million increase in her followers over the span of four months, crediting the spike to the release of her album thank u, next and her whirlwind romance with ex Pete Davidson. In less than a year, her follower count has increased to 173 million. You do the math! (Eonline)

Bill Gates' Daughter Jennifer Is Engaged! Her Massive Diamond Ring. We hear wedding bells! Congratulations are in order for Bill Gates' daughter Jennifer Gates and her brand new fiance Nayel Nassar. The pair announced on Wednesday that Nassar popped the question and gates said yes! Gates, 23, and Nassar, an equestrian athlete, couldn't be more pumped about their engagement. They both took to Instagram to show off the gorgeous diamond sparkler and share news with fans. "Nayel Nassar, you are one of a kind. Absolutely swept me off my feet this past weekend, surprising me in the most meaningful location over one of our many shared passions," she wrote alongside a picture of her stunned reaction. "I can't wait to spend the rest of our lives learning, growing, laughing and loving together. Yes a million times over. AHHH!!!" Nassar couldn't help but echo the same sentiments as his wife to be via his account as well. "SHE SAID YES!! I'm feeling like the luckiest (and happiest) man in the world right about now," he shared. "Jenn, you are everything I could have possibly imagined..and so much more. I can't wait to keep growing together through this journey called life, and I simply can't imagine mine without you anymore. Love you more than you can possibly imagine, and thank you for making every single day feel like a dream to me. Here's to forever!" All of their friends and fans were quick to offer a word of congratulations to the couple. Including, Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco. The actress, who is also married to an equestrian, left a sweet comment under Gates' post. "Oh em gee!!!!!!!! Congratulations!!!!!" She wrote for the happy couple. Gates is also an equestrian athlete and a medical student. Looks like she'll be very busy during 2020. The patriarch of the gates family and his wife Melinda Gates have yet to share their excitement, but the pair recently celebrated a milestone of their own. Jan.1 marked 26 years of marriage for the philanthropists. "New Year's Day will always be extra special to me -- marking both a fresh year and an opportunity to celebrate being married to @thisisbillgates," Melinda posted on Instagram. "Today makes 26, and I'm still marveling at just how full a heart can get. Happy anniversary to the man who keeps me dancing through life." Here's to a lifetime of love and happiness. (Eonline)

Kobe Bryant and Daughter Gianna Honored with Two Empty Courtside Seats at Brooklyn Nets Game. Weeks before his death, a video of Kobe Bryant and his daughter at a Brooklyn Nets game went viral. Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were remembered with a moment of silence at the beginning of a Brooklyn Nets game on Wednesday night. Ahead of the Nets' match-up against the Detroit Pistons, the lights at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, were dimmed while a video montage showed clips of both Bryant's basketball career and his special courtside moments with his daughter. After the video, the announcer read the names of the nine people, including Bryant and Gianna, who were tragically killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Weeks before his death, the former Los Angeles Laker and Gianna attended a Dec. 21 Nets game at Barclays, and a subsequent viral video showed Bryant breaking down the game for his daughter, who was also a basketball player. Wednesday night's tribute at Barclays Center ended with a spotlight on two empty courtside seats, the same ones the father-daughter duo had sat in during the viral clip. Two bouquets of flowers were also placed on top of the seats. In a resurfaced 2018 interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bryant, 41, had opened about how Gianna "for sure" wanted to pursue a career in basketball, just like him. "The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans come up to me, and she'll be standing next to me, and they'll be like, 'You gotta have a boy, you and [wife Vanessa] gotta have a boy, somebody else to carry on the tradition, the legacy,'" Bryant said. "She's like, 'Oh, I got this. You don't need a boy for that. I got this.' I'm like, 'That's right, yes you do. You got this,'" he continued. A source recently told PEOPLE that Gianna was even starting to emulate her father's iconic style on the court. "She was actually playing just like him. I just saw video of her playing a couple weeks ago, and she literally did the same exact fade away. Everyone was like 'That's Kobe's girl,'" the source said. On Wednesday night, Bryant's widow and Gianna's mother, Vanessa Bryant, spoke out for the first time since their deaths in an emotional Instagram post. "There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now," she wrote. "I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon." Vanessa shared that while she is not sure how to recover from their tragic and sudden deaths, she and her family -- which includes daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri -- are going to "keep pushing." "I'm not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it's impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way," she said. Bryant and his daughter died alongside the helicopter's pilot Ara Zobayan, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli and his wife, Keri Altobelli, and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli. (People)

Ex-Laker Smush Parker knows exactly what he would have said if he and Kobe Bryant ever crossed paths again -- but now that he can't, it's become a huge regret. Parker, the starting point guard for the Lakers for from 2005 to 2007, told us ... he wishes they could have officially buried the hatchet, man-to-man, over having said playing with Kobe is an "overrated" experience. The 2009 interview obviously caused a huge rift, with Kobe eventually responding ... "I tell Steve [Nash], you won MVP, but I was playing with Smush Parker. [Nash's] playing with [Leandro] Barbosa. I'm playing with Smush and Kwame [Brown]. My goodness." Kobe added, "Smush Parker was the worst. He shouldn't have been in the NBA, but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. We let him walk on." Despite the shots fired -- in both directions -- it's obvious Smush is now hurting over Kobe's death. He's even more upset about never getting the chance to square things right with his former teammate face-to-face. Smush says he did apologize in a letter to Kobe, who never responded. In retrospect, Smush says he now looks back on his 2 seasons with Kobe with pride because they shared great moments -- like the 2006 home playoff game against the Phoenix Suns, when Smush hit a 3-pointer to bring the Lakers within 2. On the next play, Smush stole a pass and fed it to Kobe, who hit a layup to force overtime. Kobe would eventually hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer to force a Game 7. Earlier that season, Smush witnessed history on the court when Kobe torched the Toronto Raptors for 81 points. It's those memories that will forever stay with Smush. But, he'd like one more opportunity to pay his respects, and he's hoping he gets it at Kobe's funeral. (TMZ)

Sikorsky, the manufacturer of the helicopter that crashed with Kobe Bryant and 8 others, had actively taken steps to make sure other flyers of the S-76 add the critical system missing from Kobe's chopper. The specific model flying Kobe was the S-76B and, as you know, the NTSB said it wasn't equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS). It was an optional feature until 2005 -- Kobe's was built in 1991. Sources familiar with Sikorsky tell us before Kobe's crash ... the company had frequently reached out to customers of older S-76 models and urged them to implement new safety measures like TAWS. The company says it regularly notifies customers of enhanced technology offerings, but for obvious reasons ... it's a top priority now. The NTSB also revealed Kobe's helicopter didn't have a cockpit voice or flight data recorder (aka a black box) -- because, once again, they weren't standard until recently. Sikorsky tells us TAWS and a black box have been standard since they rolled out their S-76D in 2012. As we reported ... the NTSB says it previously made 2 safety recommendations to the FAA about the warning system and the black box, but the FAA didn't take action. The strong insinuation is those instruments could have helped Kobe's pilot avoid catastrophe ... and helped investigators figure out what went wrong. The NTSB first recommended mandatory black boxes and warning systems in 2006 following a crash the year before, but neither are currently mandated by the FAA for commercial flights. Sikorsky says it's deeply saddened by the Kobe tragedy and is "actively supporting the NTSB investigation," adding ... "Safety is our top priority. If there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will immediately inform our S-76 customers." (TMZ)

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