Saturday, June 16
Lakers say it will sink in later
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- A visibly tired Shaquille O'Neal and a relaxed Kobe Bryant lumbered off a chartered flight on Saturday to the cheers of a few dozen fans and relatives in a warm homecoming to mark the Los Angeles Lakers second consecutive NBA championship.

"It's just great to come home," Bryant said after holding up the championship trophy for news cameras and getting a kiss and bouquet from his wife, Vanessa Laine.

The team returned from Philadelphia after winning three straight games from the 76ers, including a 108-96 victory Friday night that clinched the title.

Amid tight security, the plane landed about 1:30 p.m. on a seldom-used runway at Los Angeles International Airport. Most team members headed directly for their cars in a nearby parking lot after waving to the 40 screaming fans gathered behind a nearby fence.

Laker Rick Fox said he was still savoring the victory.

"It will sink in Monday," Fox said.

A downtown victory parade is planned for Monday to celebrate the championship.

Police said Saturday they had made several arrests on misdemeanor charges after the Lakers clinched the championship the previous evening but declined to give specifics until a full report is issued Tuesday.

The low number of arrests is a reversal from last year's post-championship melee.

Police on foot, horseback, motorcycles and bicycles made sure there was no repeat of last year's problems, spurred by the team's victory over the Indiana Pacers.

"It was a very good evening," Los Angeles police Lt. Horace Frank said Friday night.

When several fans set small fires in the street in front of Staples Center, police swarmed in to stop them. A few fans threw rocks and bottles at officers, who responded by firing rubber bullets.

No property damage was reported.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson and star Kobe Bryant recorded public service announcements that aired during the final minutes of the game urging exuberant fans to celebrate responsibly.

A sellout crowd of more than 18,000 paid $10 each to watch the giant screens inside Staples.

"Back-to-back championships are great," Joel Rodriguez, 19, said. "Now we are the city of champions. The championships make this city look better. ... We now get more respect."

Sports bars throughout the city and its suburbs overflowed with purple-and-gold clad partiers.

At Universal Citywalk, where the game also was televised on a giant TV screen, about 1,500 jubilant but generally well-behaved fans lingered long after the game to whoop and cheer loudly.

When the Lakers beat the Pacers at home to win the title last year, for the city's first major pro sports championship in 12 years, a small group of revelers roamed the streets and staged a mini-riot after the game. Two police cars and a TV news van were torched and destroyed and damage totaled $750,000.

Eleven people were arrested that night.

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