Jubilant Lakers fans party near Staples Center [Updated]
As the buzzer rang on the Lakers' 99-86 victory over the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals, revelers spilled from the ESPN Zone out onto Chick Hearn Court in front of Staples Center.
Some climbed the statues of Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Oscar De La Hoya, whooping and holding Kobe Bryant jerseys aloft.
"I'm so excited, excited, excited," said a red-faced Louis Merida, a 21-year old UC Riverside student. "I don't even know what to say! I don't even know what to say!"
"It feels great," Merida said. "No one can hate on Kobe anymore, because he's won a championship without Shaq."
Nearby, LAPD Police Chief William J. Bratton was surrounded by fans who jumped up and down and shook his hand, shouting: "Chief of police, chief of police!"
The crowd, though jubilant, appeared peaceful.
"I'm excited. I'm ready for the parade," said Douglas Miranda, 25, of San Gabriel.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Gordon said areas patrolled by the department were quiet in the immediate aftermath of the finals.
"We're not anticipating anything, but we're at the ready just in case," Gordon said.
[Updated at 8:30 p.m.: Some fans gathered at Staples Center attempted to set a bonfire, but police moved in and extinguished it. LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz confirmed that an M-80 was set off but not directed at officers. Part of the crowd appears to be on the move toward Staples Center.
Sheriff's deputies were out in force in East Los Angeles, where some fans got out of hand after a Lakers victory last week. Celebrants were on the streets cheering and setting off some fireworks.]
Earlier, as Bryant made a great play in the second quarter, Stefano Boccato jumped from his seat at Busby's East bar in Mid-Wilshire.
"That's what I'm talking about!" said Boccato, 40, who wore a purple Kobe Bryant jersey and a yellow Lakers hat.
Boccato said he grew up watching Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the "Showtime" Lakers and has been following the team the entire season. When he was younger, he used to attend games at The Forum in Inglewood with his family, and he's been a fan ever since.
He said a championship would mean "fulfillment" and hoped the city would have a parade to unite residents.
"Somebody should cover that. They should not hold that back," Boccato said.
Across town at The Cork in West Adams, 38-year-old Dorian Banks said he became a Lakers fan because of his father. Like Boccato, Banks fell in love with the team during the "Showtime" era.
He said he used to sell Pepsi at The Forum and that one of his biggest thrills was getting an autograph from Magic Johnson. A championship would "make me so happy, because I know the Lakers are a championship team and the best team in the league," Banks said.
Each time the Lakers win a game, Banks said he has an extra bounce in his step the next day and that a championship could make the whole city feel the same. He said that on Sunday, he saw dozens of people wearing Lakers gear and driving with Lakers flags attached to their cars.
"When the Lakers win a championship, it's not just the Lakers winning, it's the whole city winning," he said. "It brings the whole city more joy and confidence."
Jason Tanner, 27, lives in West Adams and wore a black Magic Johnson jersey as he walked on Adams Boulevard just before tip-off. He still remembers watching his first Lakers game when he was about 5, and "boo-hoo crying" when they lost. But he said having such strong emotions made him realize that he bled purple and gold.
For Tanner, a championship victory is a chance to brag.
"To me, that will let people know, especially the haters, that Showtime is here to stay," Tanner said. "That would mean a lot for the city."
But he hoped there would not be similar mayhem after the championship, as in previous years.
"Even when we win, we still act a fool," Tanner said.
-- Ari B. Bloomekatz reporting from Staples Center, Mid-Wilshire and West Adams and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Fans cheer around a fire near the Staples Center after the Lakers win the NBA Championship. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times