LOS ANGELES — Tens of thousands of jubilant Los Angeles Lakers fans converged on downtown Wednesday, creating a tidal wave of purple and gold — the team’s colours — as they arrived to celebrate the franchise’s 15th NBA title with a parade and rally paid for by the city’s movers and shakers.
The 95,000-seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the parade was to end and the rally was to begin around noon, was filled to capacity more than an hour before the parade kicked off.
Police Chief William J. Bratton warned people still headed for the landmark venue to find another place to watch the festivities.
All along the parade route, people were lined up more than a dozen deep under sunny skies to watch Kobe Bryant, coach Phil Jackson and other players from the storied franchise ride by on double-decker buses.
Police reported no arrests before the start of the parade. Looting and vandalism after the team won the title Sunday resulted in 18 arrests.
In the days before the parade, much was made of its estimated US$2 million cost, with critics complaining that a city a half-billion dollars in debt and facing layoffs could not afford the celebration.
But private donors stepped up at the 11th hour and underwrote most of the cost.
Billionaire developers Eli Broad and Ed Roski kicked in $850,000, and the Lakers and AEG, a unit of the Anshutz Co. that owns Staples Center where the team plays, paid $1 million in production costs.
“The city is getting a celebration on the cheap in some respects, and a great celebration,” Bratton said.
Albert de la Cruz arrived at the parade route with his baby in an antique baby carriage decorated with purple and gold suede and covered in Lakers logos.
Not far away, Letitcia Gutierrez was crammed against a chain-link fence separating fans from the parade route. But she didn’t mind the cramped quarters.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of,” she said. “We got passion and motivation. We’re rowdy.”
People began camping out along the route on Tuesday night, with the majority clad in purple and gold jerseys, hats, sweat pants or shorts. Some even dyed their hair purple for the parade.
Some fans waited through the night at the Coliseum. By dawn, so many were spilling into the surrounding streets that the facility’s parking lot was opened to accommodate them.
There was a significant presence of police cars. Bratton said there were at least 1,700 officers on the scene.