LOS ANGELES — Tens of thousands of jubilant Los Angeles Lakers fans lined a three-kilometre route Monday, many waving purple and gold flags and T-shirts that read “Back 2 Back” as they cheered the NBA champions during a parade to celebrate the team’s second consecutive title.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest waved to the throngs from a flatbed 18-wheeler as fans yelled and snapped pictures. Many waited hours for a glimpse of their heroes as they rolled past in a convoy that also included double-decker buses and fire engines.
“We saw them for three minutes, but it was worth every minute,” said Trisha Siqueiros, 29, who drove two hours from Indio with her father, Ron Nieto, 51, for the parade. “The only thing is they should have driven a little slower.”
Police reported a largely well-behaved crowd. Seven people were arrested for various minor offences, police said. Authorities did not provide a crowd estimate.
The hour-long parade capped a season that ended Thursday with an 83-79 Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics and a 16th NBA title for the Lakers.
Team members vowed to play hard for a 17th championship next season.
“When next season starts, we’ll be ready, that’s for sure,” Bryant told reporters. He added that of his five titles, “this is the best one by far because it was the hardest one to get.”
Artest, who donned a top hat with purple and gold feathers and sported an unlit cigar during the ride, also said the team plans to buckle down. “We have to party for another week, then start putting in the work and write history again next year,” he said.
The parade, which took the Lakers from Staples Center downtown to the Galen Center at the University of Southern California, started with the purple-clad Laker Girls, who received choruses of wolf-whistles.
The tribute also included past Lakers greats Earvin (Magic) Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The crowd screamed “Ma-gic! Ma-gic!” when they spotted the player-turned businessman.
Missing from the parade was coach Phil Jackson, who had to attend previously scheduled medical checkups, said team spokesman John Black. Jackson has said his health will determine whether he will return as coach.
“This is the highest priority for him and for us in determining whether he’s going to come back and coach for us again next year,” Black said.
Artest said he wished Jackson could have been there. “He’s my favourite coach of all time,” Artest said. “I enjoyed it for him.”
Diehard fans wore all manner of Lakers attire and colours, from sneakers to purses to Mexican-style ponchos. Some waved huge flags and held up signs, like a foam tombstone reading “RIP Boston” and “Back to back without Shaq.”
Many fans took a day off work to pay tribute to their team.
Window washer Jimmy Baskom, 58, said he forewent the day’s pay to drive in from Palmdale because he wanted to see his longtime basketball heroes up close after watching every game this season on TV.
“I’ve been a die-hard fan all my life and I watch every game, but this is my first opportunity to see them in person,” he said.
Electrician Orie Stewart of Los Angeles said he took a day off to bring his 14-year-old granddaughter to the event. “We’ve been longtime fans,” he said. “I’m raising my grandchildren to be Lakers fans.”
The police presence was heavy around the parade route with helicopters overhead and officers on foot, horseback, motorcycle and in cars to deter would-be vandals. After Thursday’s game, people started fires, rocked cars, smashed windows and threw objects at fans and officers. At least 42 people were arrested.
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office said Monday 10 people will be prosecuted on misdemeanour charges including inciting a riot, unlawful assembly after being told to disperse, throwing flammable objects, and assault.
In one case, a man was accused of setting fire to a Celtics jersey, said senior assistant city attorney Chuck Goldenberg. Another man was arrested for allegedly throwing a bicycle at a police officer, and other charges resulted from people throwing rocks at officers and other offences.
Cabbie Abraham Teferi, whose taxi was attacked and burned by the mob, was given a US$10,000 cheque by Staples Center owner AEG.
AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said the taxi was covered by the cab company’s insurance so AEG decided to cover the personal expenses of Teferi, 41, an Ethiopian immigrant who has been in the United States for nine years.
“This isn’t about a car. This is about a life,” Leiweke said.
Fans left no doubt they were looking for a third title next year. “I’m just as excited this year because it’s the second time in a row,” said Teresa Howe, 42, of Simi Valley. “I’m looking forward to a three-peat. And I’ll be here next year.”
Associated Press Writers Christina Hoag and Thomas Watkins contributed to this report.