World Events

Lakers fans celebrate championship outside Staples Center

The Lakers’ first world championship in a decade was met Sunday with fireworks across Southern California and a jubilant crowd that converged near Staples Center, despite the urging of city leaders to stay away.

A few hundred Lakers faithful were just outside the Staples Center complex, cheering as the team defeated the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Orlando, Fla. Some chanted “Kobe, Kobe” in tribute to the former Lakers great who was killed in a helicopter crash this year.

A big crowd took over the intersection of Figueroa Street and Chick Hearn Court, dancing and jumping up and down and setting off smoke bombs in gold and purple — the Lakers’ colors.

“I’m in shock,” said Fontana resident Jose Valdez, 24, who came to downtown in a white Kobe jersey to watch the game. A red mask covered his nose and mouth but couldn’t hide his elation.

“I’m so happy,” Valdez said.

The crowd was peaceful, and police were blocking entrances into Staples Center and L.A. Live. Some merchants were on the street selling souvenirs.

Meanwhile, fireworks could be seen and heard in neighborhoods across the city amid cheers and celebrations.

Daniel Mendoza, 43, live streamed the revelers outside Staples from his phone. The fast food worker, who lives in Fresno, rented a room at the JW Marriott for the night to celebrate the victory in the Lakers’ hometown.

“This one is for Kobe,” said Mendoza, who called himself a lifelong Lakers fan,. “This one probably means the most of all of them.”

On Friday, Los Angeles Police Department officials has said they were hoping fans would stay home but were prepared for crowd control if needed.

LAPD Deputy Chief Vito Palazzolo, who oversees the department’s Central Bureau, which includes L.A. Live, said:

“We hope people celebrate at home…. The teams are playing in the bubble, not locally. “

Social distancing requirements imposed by the county and city forbid large social gatherings.

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