After the Los Angeles Lakers brought home the National Basketball Assn. title in June, 250,000 people filled downtown streets for a mostly peaceful and joyful parade and celebration.
Among those celebrating was Mayor Richard Riordan, who proclaimed: “They are the first champions of the 21st century, the start of a great dynasty.”
During the parade, the Lakers and their families rode on four double-decker buses, waving to cheering fans. Nearly everyone wore something purple and gold to celebrate the Lakers’ first NBA Championship in a dozen years.
“Man, they gave me chills,” said fan Michael Charlie of La Puente, who caught a glimpse of Shaq, Kobe and Co. after about eight hours of waiting. “Look at these!” he said, holding up an arm covered with goose bumps.
Despite the presence of 600 police officers, a small crowd of troublemakers surged down Figueroa Street, stealing from vendors and smashing cars and store windows. In the main, the day was filled with tributes to the champions.
It was a season when Shaquille O’Neal emerged as the most dominating player in the league. His power, combined with the finesse of Kobe Bryant and the leadership of new coach Phil Jackson, pushed the Lakers to the championship. The team won the title on June 19 in Game 6 of the finals, beating the Indiana Pacers, 116-111, at Staples Center.
But jubilation was quickly marred by violence when crowds outside torched two police cars, damaged two television news vans and vandalized some downtown businesses. Eleven people were arrested, but no serious injuries were reported.