Lakers parade, like season, meets the highest expectations
The Lakers always knew they could turn to Derek Fisher to save the day.
So did the LAPD, which deputized the team's point guard to grab a microphone in case crowds celebrating the Lakers' NBA championship got unruly. Pau Gasol -- a fluent Spanish speaker -- also was prepped to tell Coliseum revelers to stay off the field.
Contingency plans were as unnecessary as Game 6. The city of Los Angeles was able to relish its second-best moment of the week -- a near-perfect celebration of the first.
The only thing raining on the Lakers parade was confetti, glittering along with hundreds of thousands of smiles and one very important trophy that was placed at center court in the Coliseum.
You didn't know the Coliseum had a basketball court? It did Wednesday. Organizers gave the Lakers' home court a head start on the parade, sending it about two miles from the Staples Center to the city's hallowed stadium. There it served as the stage for this team's final performance of the season.
Fans tried to get a head start of their own, reportedly lining up as early as 2 a.m. to get the best seats. This crowd didn't resemble the troublemakers who spilled into the streets of downtown L.A. on Sunday, smashing cars and storefronts. Once the gates opened, they simply sat down and did the opposite of shut-up. It's hard to imagine a better-behaved crowd.
It was also evident that they were more about wake-and-bake than booze-and-break.
A day and a half before the event, organizers decided against selling beer. So there were no suds, although the unmistakable smell of marijuana did waft through on several occasions. Food lines were longer than a sold-out USC game. Just a hunch, but whatever concessionaires lost in beer sales they probably made up for on nachos.
There are always a few people looking for a buzz -- even before 10 a.m. when the Coliseum reached capacity. Both kinds have a tendency to break things. By 11 a.m., you knew it was going to be a calm event. There really was something in the air.
But although fans were mellow, the LAPD was on high alert. The Times' Andrew Blankstein overheard Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese give an impressive pep talk to his officers -- and to the Lakers.
Players were informed that if spectators threw any objects onto the parade buses, it was better to play finders keepers. Tossing items back would only encourage more fans to throw things, hoping for autographs.
When LAPD officers asked if anybody planned on throwing anything to the fans, Kobe Bryant said, jokingly, "Shoes" -- the primary item looted by revelers on Sunday.
Bryant also went against the grain when he and Fisher insisted on wearing dark-colored T-shirts with four rings on them, contrary to the NBA's plan to have all the players in white T-shirts.
Overall, Wednesday was an Andrew Bynum-sized success for the Lakers, the city of Los Angeles and everybody involved with the event -- especially the fans. The game planning was enough to make Phil Jackson envious. Maybe he was, because Jackson cruised to the Coliseum early in a Cadillac Escalade instead of riding down Figueroa with his team. Or maybe he just needed the large SUV to carry all of his championship rings. Actually, it was probably just his hip acting up, and he's earned the same latitude as Bryant and Fisher.
Even with all these anecdotes, the image that will stick with me isn't from the parade or rally but a fleeting moment after the Lakers had left the purple carpet. One of the 2,000 LAPD officers on duty that day was waiting for her debriefing -- wrapped in a giant metallic streamer and grinning ear to ear.
It was a blissful moment to conclude a blissful day.
-- Adam Rose
Photo: Kobe Bryant hoists the NBA Championship trophy during a celebration at the Los Angeles Coliseum after the Lakers parade. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times