Wednesday, June 12
Updated: June 13, 12:55 AM ET
Only minor vandalism mars L.A.'s celebration
LOS ANGELES -- Jubilant Lakers fans danced, slapped high-fives and waved three fingers in the air while "I Love L.A.'' blared at Staples Center on Wednesday night as more than 18,000 fans celebrated the team's third straight title.
When the Lakers wrapped up their NBA Finals sweep with a 113-107 victory over the Nets in New Jersey, streamers and handmade purple and gold airplanes rained down on the joyous but well-behaved crowd at the Lakers' home arena.
Outside the arena, police helicopters hovered overhead, and walls of riot gear-equipped police -- some on horseback -- kept a watchful eye to make sure there was no repeat of the 2000 celebration, when there was brief rioting.
There were only a few scattered incidents Wednesday night. They involved handfuls of young men trying to start trash fires and hurling bottles at police. Several windows in a vacant office building near Staples Center were broken, as were the windows in a TV news van.
"As far as I know there's been no real injuries. Minor, minor vandalism, but that was our whole plan. We're not going to let anything get big and we did stop them from any major damage,'' police Sgt. John Pasqueriello said.
Officer Don Cox said he knew of only two arrests, one involving battery on a police officer.
"One of the news crews got some of the windows broken out in their news van so we had to take immediate action, and that's what we did,'' Pasqueriello said. "We learned in the past that we can't let these things brew and we took immediate action and moved the crowd out.''
When the Lakers beat Indiana at Staples Center in 2000 to win the NBA title, a crowd that gathered outside the arena to watch its exterior TV screen turned into a destructive mob. Police cars and a TV van were torched, and businesses suffered about $750,000 in property damage.
That was the last time the games were shown on the outdoor screen.
The celebration was more subdued last year when the Lakers won their second straight NBA crown on the road in Philadelphia. There were only a handful of arrests and no property damage.
The Lakers' victory parade through downtown will be held Friday, beginning with a short ceremony at City Hall at 11:05 a.m. PT, and ending at Staples with a 40-minute program beginning at 12:30 p.m.
In the arena, many fans held up cell phones to share the noisy celebration with friends and family who weren't able to get one of the $10 seats in front of the arena's giant TVs.
The fans quieted only to listen as Shaquille O'Neal -- who also three-peated as the finals' MVP -- was interviewed on TV.
Jimmy Gomez, a member of the hip hop band, "Black Eyed Peas,'' was among the crowd at Staples.
"It don't get no better than Laker fans. You bring all different types of people together,'' Gomez said. "You bring different gangs, you bring different cultures together, you bring men and women together, and they all create this ambiance of positivity.''
Unlike the regular season and the playoffs, Wednesday night's game brought a mostly blue-collar crowd to the arena instead of the corporate executives, Hollywood stars such as Jack Nicholson, and entertainment industry brass who normally attend Lakers games.
Andrew Gutierrez said: "You have the real fans there -- the real 9-to-5ers watching it with you. You don't have the white-collar guys that get box seat tickets from work. They're just not the same thing. They're all nice and quiet.''
With the Lakers' empty court below them, the crowd chanted, "Defense! Defense!'' and "Three-Peat! Three-Peat!'' ignoring the fact that O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and crew couldn't hear them.