LOS ANGELES, June 18 – Tens of thousands of basketball fans descended on downtown Los Angeles Wednesday as the city saluted its NBA Championship-winning Lakers at a victory parade.Several hundred police officers were out in force for the presentation, which began at the Lakers’ Staples Center before finishing with a rally in front of around 80,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Large crowds of fans dressed in the Lakers’ purple and gold colors lined the parade route while the Coliseum, venue for the 1984 Olympic Games, packed out roughly an hour before a victory rally got underway.
"Thank you so much to all the fans," Lakers guard Derek Fisher shouted to the crowd just before the parade began near Staples Center. "Thank you for the support this year, baby. We love you. Let’s go Lakers!"
Kobe Bryant, the championship series MVP, hoisted the NBA championship trophy as he sat atop one of the double-decker buses carrying the team.
Bryant told fans at the Coliseum he hoped the victory would be the first of a new era for the Lakers.
"We have a young team, you know, a team that has a lot of chemistry and we’re all hungry," Bryant told the crowd.
"We feel this championship. We feel the energy of the city. We want to do this thing again and again. So you know we’ll be back next year ready to go."
The parade came after the Lakers clinched the NBA finals series 4-1 on Sunday with a victory over the Orlando Magic in Florida.
Sunday’s triumph triggered ugly scenes near the Staples Center, with a small number of fans starting fires, smashing cars, looting stores and hurling missiles at police officers, leading to 18 arrests.
Los Angeles Police Department chief William Bratton had warned before Wednesday’s parade troublemakers would meet with a "zero tolerance" approach.
"If you come in and you’re drinking, you’re drunk and you’re misbehaving, you’re going to be arrested," he said.
An LAPD spokesman said Wednesday "several people" had been arrested for throwing objects at officers as they tried to force their way into the Coliseum.
Despite complaints over the two-million-dollar bill for the parade, the cost to the city had been reduced after donations of around 850,000 dollars by wealthy individuals in Los Angeles, local media reported.
The Lakers and the owners of the Staples Center had contributed another one million to the cost.