Lakers parade draws thousands to downtown

LOS ANGELES Earvin "Magic" Johnson was the guest host of a Lakers victory celebration at The Trousdale in West Hollywood on Monday night.

But while this event was only open to the celebrity set, there was no guest list earlier in downtown Los Angeles.

Hundreds of thousands of L.A. Lakers fans greeted the team with jubilant cheers, as the city celebrated the Lakers' second consecutive NBA championship.

Many eager fans spent the night along the parade route to secure a good spot.

"It's a big win, not only for the Lakers but everyone in the city of Los Angeles ... it's going to be a fantastic day," said Francisco Bringas, a Lakers fan.

The /*victory parade*/ kicked off shortly after 11 a.m., with fans lining the two-mile stretch on Figueroa Street from Staples Center to just north of the USC campus and Galen Center. At least 500,000 turned out to support their support, turning the street into a sea of purple and gold.

Players rode on a customized flat-bed float, equipped with audio capabilities, which was intended to help mitigate pedestrian and traffic congestion.

Unlike last year's parade, there was no post-parade event. But that didn't deter the thousands of fans from spilling into the downtown area to see their team.

"We drove from Bakersfield at 3 in the morning," said one Lakers fan along the parade route.

Lakers players said they were equally excited to celebrate their victory with the city. An excited Ron Artest, wearing a top hat with purple and gold feathers, pumped up the crowd in a variety of chants, including "Kobe" and "Boston sucks."

"It's great 'cause my family's here to enjoy it with me. That's the best feeling in the world," Artest said from atop the float.

While this is the second consecutive NBA championship title for the Lakers, many players said this one feels sweeter.

"I appreciate this one a lot more than I did the first one," said Lamar Odom.

Bryant has five titles, but "this is the best one by far because it was the hardest one to get," he said. "It's special to share it with your family, you know, my kids are old enough now to understand the competition and the challenges of it and it feels good to show them that hard work pays off."

Fans came to the parade dressed for a party, some wearing purple and gold from head to toe. The roar from the crowd was deafening when they saw Bryant with the championship trophy held high in the air.

The fans couldn't get enough. Some tried to follow the team as it rolled down Figueroa, but the crowd was huge -- 20 deep in most spots and everyone was squeezed tight so it was tough just to move around.

"For us to win the championship against the Celtics and see what it means to these fans is unbelievable, there's no better feeling," said Lakers Captain Derek Fisher.

The tribute also included past Lakers greats Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The crowd screamed "Ma-gic! Ma-gic!" when they spotted the player-turned businessman.

Missing from the parade was coach Phil Jackson, who had to attend previously scheduled medical checkups, said team spokesman John Black.

The LAPD was out in full force along the parade route, ready to intervene if anyone got even a little bit rowdy. But police reported a largely well-behaved crowd with no major incidents during the celebration.

Seven people were arrested for various minor offenses, and two others were detained but later released after questioning. Several were arrested at Pico and Figueroa for throwing objects at police.

CHP stationed officers along the Santa Monica Freeway overpass to keep motorists from stopping as the parade moved underneath.

Authorities were trying to prevent anything like Thursday's post-game riots from happening. After Game 7, police arrested 38 people who vandalized store fronts and vehicles outside Staples Center and were involved in fights. Other fans were arrested for public intoxication, and some even set a taxi cab and garbage cans on fire. The post-game melee left one officer with a broken nose when fans threw rocks and bottles at police.

The parade, estimated to cost $2 million, will be paid by the Lakers organization.

The parade caused major traffic congestion in the downtown area. L.A. Live and several surrounding streets were blocked off, and Figueroa Street was closed between Olympic Boulevard to the north and Jefferson Boulevard on the south. Parts of Chick Hearn Court, Cherry Street, Flower Street and Jefferson Boulevard were also closed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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