Lakers Draw Biggest Crowd ----30,000 Fans
A huge mutual admiration society--the citizens of Los Angeles and their world championship Lakers--paraded and celebrated in downtown Los Angeles today, the crowd so big that at times it became literally crushing.
The otherwise joyous occasion was marred by injuries suffered by several people who were pushed against heavy, water-filled barrels set up to separate the Lakers and public officials from the surging, enthusiastic crowd that filled the south lawn of City Hall. Several other people collapsed of what appeared to be heat prostration.
The crowd was said by police to be the largest ever gathered downtown for a championship parade, with the number estimated at 30,000 or more.
The City Hall ceremony itself apparently was cut short, lasting only about 20 minutes, because of the dangerously large crowd.
‘Let’s . . . Do It Again!’
“It feels great! It feels good! And let’s try to do it again next season, all right!” shouted a jubilant Magic Johnson to the throng at City Hall.
Along the parade route on Broadway between 9th and 1st streets crowds were packed 10 and 12 deep. Do-it-yourself confetti--torn-up phone books, calendar pages, business cards--rained down on the floats carrying the basketball champions to City Hall. The huge turnout seemed to surprise, and in some cases, scare city officials. About 100 police officers, 20 mounted policemen, plus traffic officers and security guards tried to control--and largely succeeded in controlling--the closely packed, mostly good-natured crowd, which cheered the players almost without letup.
But at one point, after treating an injured young woman, Fire Capt. Tony DiDomenico said: “It is a very frightening thing. . . . There is heat prostration, hysteria . . . twisted knees.”
Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, master of ceremonies for the rally, repeatedly urged fans to move back to keep from crushing those up front against the protective barrels.
‘It Is a Huge Crush’
“It is like a corral with too many horses in it,” he said. “It is a huge crush, I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt.”
“This is the biggest crowd ever in downtown Los Angeles to cheer a championship team,” said police spokesman Lt. Dan Cooke. “Never before have we had to shut down 1st Street, Broadway and Main Street for a crowd.”
Acting Mayor Pat Russell hurried through her brief remarks--Mayor Tom Bradley was on a cruise to Alaska--and handed over an official city scroll proclaiming this as “Lakers’ Day” in Los Angeles. Team Capt. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar accepted the scroll and thanked the huge crowd fanned out before him for their support.
The parade and rally climaxed three days of celebration that began Sunday when the Lakers won the National Basketball Assn. World’s Championship by defeating the Boston Celtics 111 to 100.
The champions were honored Monday by President Reagan in Washington, but from the grins and reactions of Laker players and coaches alike, today’s homecoming celebration was clearly the more heartfelt accolade.