Thousands celebrate Laker victory in LA

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Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (L) waves to the crowd while riding in the victory parade for the the NBA basketball champion team on June 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Thousands of fans jammed the streets in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA championship, turning the team’s victory parade route along Figueroa Street into a sea of purple and gold.

The Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics, 83-79 Thursday night in Game 7, winning their second consecutive championship at the Staples Center.

Team members climbed onto a flatbed truck near Staples Center to greet the crowd along a two-mile route on Figueroa Street from the Staples Center to the USC campus area.

“When you’re playing you don’t really get a chance to see those who are at home or at a local bar watching the game, supporting and screaming and cheering, and now you get a chance to kind of put a face to it,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant said to CBS2 before he climbed onto the truck.

“Every time we have one of these, the numbers are just jaw dropping,” Bryant said of the throngs of people who came out to celebrate with the team both last year and this year.

The crowd estimated at more than 500,000 were lively but were generally peaceful, without the violent outbursts that spoiled the post-game celebrations from the Laker victory on Thursday night.

So far, police have reported nine arrests at the parade. Paramedics had to treat parade-goers who became ill, but there were no serious injuries, fire department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

The team agreed to pay for the costs associated with the event, estimated to be around $2 million including police and street services.

Laker players were interviewed while they were on the bus.

"It's great that my family is here to share it with me,'' Ron Artest said. "I mean, that's the best feeling in the world, out here with my daughter, my wife, my sons, my mom, my dad, everybody. It's great."

Double-decker and open-air buses and other vehicles carried Laker coaches and staff, team officials, the Laker Girls dance team and members of the Buss family, which owns the team.

Thousands flooded the downtown area before the parade, including some who camped out overnight for a premium spot. As the crowd swelled in size, a heavy police force stood ready to oversee the celebration.

“Well, we’re prepared for everything, but I’m hoping and I’m anticipating a nice family event where people get a chance to recognize the Lakers, they get to see the Lakers and they get to be part of the experience,” LAPD Chief Charlie Back told Channel 2.

Both city officials and the Lakers urged parade-goers to enjoy the parade peacefully and avoid the same violence near the Staples Center that spoiled the city celebration after the Laker victory Thursday night.

“I’m most anxious to see the end of this parade,” Beck joked to CBS2 when asked what he was most looking forward to seeing that morning.

“But I love seeing the players and all that, but you know, when it’s part of your job, I mostly want to see this parade finished, with nobody injured, no incidents, you know, and send all my cops home.”

KPCC's Corey Moore contributed audio to this report.

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