Candace Parker jubilantly hoists the WNBA trophy.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Amy Crawford, center, of Los Angeles cheers as the Los Angeles Sparks celebrate their 2016 WNBA Championship with fans at L.A. Live.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Kristi Toliver throws shoes to fans as the Los Angeles Sparks celebrate their championship.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Ana Dabovic address the crowd alongside championship trophies.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Sparks president Stan Kasten celebrates the team’s 2016 WNBA Championship with fans.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
LA Mayor Eric Garretti takes a close-up photo of the trophies with his smartphone.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Team mascot Sparky riles up the fans as they celebrate at LA Live.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Fans wait for the Sparks to arrive on LA Live stage.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
After snapping a few pictures with his iPhone, Brian Agler turned and pointed up at the big screen behind the stage.
Hundreds of people were gathered at L.A. Live to celebrate the Sparks’ WNBA championship Monday and Angler, the team’s coach, wanted to remind them all of why they were there. Everyone craned their necks to watch the last three plays of Game 5 on Thursday, which the Sparks won in Minneapolis over the Minnesota Lynx to clinch their first title since 2002.
When the final buzzer sounded and cameras zoomed in on Candace Parker and Kristi Tolliver hugging on the court, the crowd cheered as if it were happening all over again.
For one more day, it practically was.
“For us to come back and be celebrating with the people that are there for us all the time with so much enthusiasm, I think is special,” Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said. “Not just for us, special for the city and special for them.”
Each player addressed the fans at the microphone in the middle of the stage and the crowd also heard from Agler, co-owner Stan Kasten and Mayor Eric Garcetti, among others. Tolliver filmed the whole thing with a camera mounted on a selfie stick. Ogwumike and guard Essence Carson took selfies with the crowd.
The players offered different messages, but all circled back to thanking each other, the organization and the fans for support throughout their championship run.
She was right. While the Sparks players walked onto the stage one by one, two young girls played two young boys in an impromptu game on a nearby street. One of the girls backed a boy into the paint, jumped into the air and scored on a hook shot. All of them ran toward the hoop to get the ball, but then something else caught their attention.
“Here comes Candace Parker!” one of the event’s hosts yelled. “And she has a very special guest with her!”
The four kids let the ball bounce toward the street and then ran to a break in the crowd to see Parker. The WNBA Finals’ most valuable player danced onto the stage with the championship trophy in her hand. She walked it to the front of the stage, kissed it and placed it between the two won by the Sparks in 2001 and 2002.
At that, the crowd went crazy once again.
“It’s nice to have the trophy back in L.A.,” Parker noted later. “Where it belongs.”