Thousands of Angelenos filled Figueroa Street and Jefferson Boulevard Monday morning to celebrate the Los Angeles Lakers' 16th NBA Championship with a well-deserved victory parade.
While authorities had not provided an official number at press time, estimates of 500,000 to 1 million people in attendance seemed reasonable given the huge number of purple and gold jerseys packed in between Staples Center and LA Live.
Kobe Bryant and the championship trophy--together again.
Photo by Christopher Victorio
However, unlike the booze-fueled riots that broke out immediately after the Lakers had finally defeated the hated Boston Celtics in a dramatic (but almost unwatchable) Game 7 of the NBA Finals, this gathering had a peaceful, family friendly atmosphere that let the true LA fans celebrate their city's victory with the team and players they love.
That love borders on obsession for some fans. Some were there as early as midnight the night before.
"I love the Lakers and that's what true fans do," said one fan, still lying on his back wrapped in a blanket.
Others made their own signs, the most creative of which was probably the giant, cartoonish cardboard hands festooned with rings, five to be exact, that were supposed to represent Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's increasing jewelry collection.
Sara Ruiz of Huntington Park and Ceasar Robles of Pasadena carried the giant mandibles, which Ruiz said took her two days to make. For these two, the answer to who their favorite Lakers player of all-time was just as obvious as the signs they carried.
"[Favorite player] right now? Kobe. Of all-time? Kobe," Robles said.
Other signs were heartfelt confessions of love directed toward the Lakers' younger players like guards Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.
"I love his ears!" Jade Walker, a Moreno Valley native, said about Farmar's most distinctive physical trait while holding her own sign professing her love of the Lakers. She'd been at the parade site since about 5:40 a.m.
"I couldn't imagine being anywhere else right now," she said.
Walker and the rest of the fans who waited hours for just a glimpse of their favorite team were finally rewarded for their devotion at 11:30 a.m., when the parade kicked off a half hour after its scheduled starting time.
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
The flat-bed truck carrying the team crawled south down Figueroa from Staples Center to the delight of the fans. Kobe, forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum waved to fans, Larry O'Brien Trophy held high.
Surprisingly, Ron Artest didn't bring his entire clan (as he did in his now famous post-Game 7 press conference). Then again, they might have needed their own bus.
Former Lakers Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were also in attendance.
Any fans of legendary head coach Phil Jackson could have stayed home, however, as the Zen Master was nowhere to be seen. According to ESPN, Jackson could not attend the parade because of medical appointments that could not be rescheduled.
According to the LAPD, nine arrests were made and two children were reported missing, but other than that the parade went off without a hitch.
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
For police Sgt. David Wong, the friendly attitude of the crowd was a welcome relief. A veteran of six victory parades, he said that this year's was much more low key than he had seen in the past.
After the 2000 NBA Finals, the Lakers first championship in 12 years, Wong said the crowd was packed along the parade route several rows deep and was much more rowdy. Ten years and four titles later, however, LA fans know how to throw a parade everyone can enjoy.