- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

LOS ANGELES | Tens of thousands of jubilant Los Angeles Lakers fans flooded downtown Wednesday as they celebrated the storied franchise’s 15th NBA title with a high-energy parade and rally paid for by private donors.

People clad in purple and gold stood 20 or more deep along the 2 1/2-mile route from Staples Center to the packed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

A convoy of double-decker buses carrying players, coaches, their family members and the Laker Girls cheerleaders drew whoops and hollers along the route. Their arrival outside the 95,000-seat stadium brought a huge roar from those assembled for the rally.

“Thank you for all the support, baby. We love you. Let’s go, Lakers,” veteran guard Derek Fisher shouted to fans along the parade route.

Fisher hit a pair of 3-pointers that sealed a Game 4 victory in the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic. The Lakers needed just one more game to clinch the championship Sunday.

Letitcia Gutierrez watched the procession squeezed against a chain-link fence separating fans from the buses. She didn’t mind the cramped quarters.

“It’s a great thing to be a part of,” she said. “We got passion and motivation. We’re rowdy.”

Crowds at the stadium and along the parade route were rambunctious but mostly well-mannered, in contrast to the melee that broke out downtown after the Lakers clinched the championship in Orlando. Eighteen people were arrested.

Police said there were only five arrests Wednesday. They had no immediate details, but one rowdy celebrant was seen being led out of the Coliseum in handcuffs before the team arrived.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said at least 1,700 officers, some in riot gear and others in plainclothes, kept watch on the crowd.

The city held similar post-victory parades in 2000, 2001 and 2002 after the Lakers won championships, but the energy and size of the crowd didn’t compare with this year.

“This is more special because we went through so many dark years,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant said as he prepared to board one of the parade buses. “You can just feel the energy in the city.”

Later, chants of “MVP” rocked the Coliseum as Bryant and his teammates descended the steps into the stadium after the parade.

In the days before the event, much was made of its estimated $2 million cost, with critics complaining that a city a half-billion dollars in debt and facing layoffs could not afford the celebration.

But private donors stepped up at the 11th hour and in an unusual move underwrote most of the cost. It was the first of the four Lakers victory parades in the past decade to be privately funded.

Billionaire developers Eli Broad and Ed Roski were among several donors who kicked in $850,000. The Lakers and AEG, a unit of Anschutz Co. that owns Staples Center, paid $1 million in production costs.

People began camping out along the parade route Tuesday night, with the majority wearing purple and gold jerseys, hats, sweatpants or shorts. Some even dyed their hair purple for the parade.

Albert de la Cruz pushed his baby in an antique baby carriage decorated with purple and gold suede and covered in Lakers logos.

Some fans waited through the night at the Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics. The venue was filled hours before the parade began.

Walter Contreras was one of the thousands of people who arrived too late to get in. He decided to stand outside and see whatever he could.

“Come on, it’s the Lakers,” he said. “This is the heart of our city. Why would I ever want to miss this?”

The parade was the first for the Lakers since Shaquille O’Neal was traded in 2004.

With the dry spell finally over, those in the crowd Wednesday were already predicting another championship next year, many shouting, “Back-to-back without Shaq.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide