LOS ANGELES, AP
More than a half-million fans celebrated the Los Angeles Lakers’ second straight NBA championship Monday as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant promised to do it all again next year. “Three-peat, three-peat, three-peat,” rap master Shaq exhorted a purple-and-gold throng massed outside Staples Center, the Lakers’ home ground, in a rousing hip-hop performance that capped the festivities. Bryant put it another way: “We’re going to get another one next year, again — back to back to back.” Baking heat couldn’t keep fans from flocking downtown to celebrate the Lakers’ out-of-town victory over the Eastern Conference-champion Philadelphia 76ers. About 550,000 people turned out for the parade and rally, police spokesman Lt. Horace Frank said. A TV vehicle was vandalized, but there were no major problems, he said. Paramedics treated 95 people, mostly for heat-related problems, Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said. The most serious injury was a leg fracture suffered by a 43-year-old woman who was hit by a car near the parade route. On stage, Bryant squirted teammates with a giant water gun. “Man, it’s hot out here, but my brothers and I just had to be here,” said Julio Rodriguez, 13, of Los Angeles. “What a lot of people. What a lot of fun.” Along the parade route, fans perched in trees and leaned out from garages. Office workers mixed with schoolchildren clad in gold-and-purple Lakers jerseys. Vendors hawked Lakers pennants and beaded necklaces as the sound of people tooting purple plastic horns filled the air. “They’re my team, that’s why I’m here. Some people just turn out when they win, but I’m the real deal,” said Malcolm Keane, 29. Fernando Garcia, 21, of Palm Springs, and his wife drove more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) Sunday night to camp outside Staples. “I think we will do this again next year,” Garcia said,”and for as many years as they keep Shaq and Kobe.” When the parade arrived at Staples, coach Phil Jackson apologized to fans for the Lakers’ loss in the opening game at Staples before going on to finish the 76ers on their court. “We’re sorry we lost one game at home. It wasn’t your fault, believe me, it was ours,” Jackson said. “Without getting too far ahead, wouldn’t it be sweet to repeat?” Fans shared the Lakers’ confidence. Magic Johnson, a member of the Showtime Lakers, called the current lineup “quite probably the greatest team that’s ever played.” In the opening ceremony, outgoing Mayor Richard Riordan and Mayor-elect James Hahn jointly declared Monday Los Angeles Lakers Day. “If I get eight years, I want eight national championships,” Hahn added. Police Chief Bernard Parks thanked fans for celebrating Friday’s victory responsibly and avoiding the kind of destructive melee that marred the team’s championship a year ago. The chief also joked that the Lakers’ owners, staff and coach were being charged with conspiring to win more championships. “Shaquille O’Neal is being charged with assault and battery for countless acts against NBA centers,” Parks added. “Kobe Bryant is being charged for flying without a permit, and the other Lakers who carry the alias The Super Friends are accused of breaking and entering — breaking records and entering the new championship era.” For the NBA champions, it was an encore parade. This time the 12-block route was marked by purple lines, which crowds were supposed to stay behind. Last year, fans swelled off the sidewalks and slowed the procession to a crawl, sometimes bringing it to a stop. An estimated quarter million people lined Figueroa Street for last year’s championship parade along a route that may become “Shaq & Kobe Way,” since O’Neal is 29 and Bryant is 22 and the two are expected to keep the Lakers in championship contention for years to come. Los Angeles took its second consecutive league title Friday, beating the 76ers 108-96 in Philadelphia to win the championship in five games. The Lakers finished the playoffs with a record of 15-1, the best ever, and they also became the first team to go through the playoffs undefeated on the road. Victory night was not marred with the violence that marked last year’s Lakers’ win over Indiana. After the Lakers clinched the title with a victory against the Pacers at Staples in the sixth game last year, a small mob of hooligans roamed the streets around the arena, torching two police cars and a TV van and damaging other vehicles. This time, police were out in force around Staples, where more than 18,000 fans paid dlrs 10 each to watch the Lakers 76ers game on giant screen TVs.