Thousands of Lakers Fans Swarm Staples Center Following the Team’s Championship Win
Thousands of Los Angeles Lakers fans ignored social distance orders amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and gathered outside the Staples Center on Sunday night to celebrate the team's NBA championship victory against the Miami Heat.
After the Lakers beat Miami 106-93 in Game 6 of their best of seven series at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, fans swarmed downtown Los Angeles to celebrate — despite warnings from city officials beforehand.
"As we cheer our @Lakers’ 17th championship, please remember it's still not safe to gather in group," L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted before the game. "Let’s honor our city's triumph by protecting others and making sure we don't spread the virus. Please celebrate safely at home. Do not gather at Staples Center. Thank you!"
The celebrations were initially peaceful, with fans in massive crowds waving Lakers flags through the streets and outside the Staples Center. Some men even climbed construction-site scaffolding to wave the flags, one of which was a Kobe Bryant "MVP" banner in honor of the late athlete, according to USA Today.
A few drivers burned rubber, sending thick smoke into the air, while cars and motorcycles performed "donuts" in the crowd, per USA Today. The celebrations reportedly caused traffic to sit at a standstill for about an hour on several streets.
Fireworks were also set off across the city, which is illegal in unincorporated areas of L.A. County without a permit, according to CBS News.
Eventually, hundreds of police officers intervened, while helicopters flew overhead, USA Today reported.
According to the Los Angeles Times, law enforcement shot bean bag rounds into the crowds which sent fans running after there were reports of young men throwing champagne bottles at police officers.
The California Highway Patrol closed freeway exit ramps into downtown L.A. and after the LAPD declared an unlawful assembly, officers began arresting fans that did not leave, the Times reported.
The Lakers' victory came nearly nine months after Bryant died in a helicopter crash that killed eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Following the Jan. 26 accident, the Lakers have continually found ways to pay tribute to Bryant and his daughter. Once the playoffs began in July, the team brought back their "Black Mamba" uniforms for the first time since the 2017-2018 season, with the addition of a No. 2 patch in memory of Gianna, who wore the number while playing at the Mamba Sports Academy.
The Lakers will likely be unable to hold a championship parade anytime in the immediate future due to the city's ban on large gatherings outside of religious ceremonies and political protests.
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