LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles Lakers fans packed the streets surrounding the Staples Center on Sunday night to celebrate the Lakers winning the 2020 NBA Finals.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had been cheering the team on, warned Angelenos against gathering during the pandemic, but crowds still convened for the celebration.
“As we cheer our Lakers’ 17th championship, please remember it’s still not safe to gather in groups,” Garcetti tweeted. “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!”
A group of Lakers fans also set off fireworks, which are illegal in unincorporated areas of L.A. County without a valid permit, and cars were seen doing donuts.
Celebrations started out joyful Sunday night and later dissolved into confrontations between fans and law enforcement that led to non-lethal projectiles being deployed. SWAT team officials had also responded to the growing crowd.
Mayor Garcetti told KCAL9 in a phone interview that the California Highway Patrol closed freeway exits in downtown L.A. to discourage large gatherings, but what appeared to be thousands of people had already crowded local streets.
Among other places, fans celebrated at The Brews Hall in Torrance, where people were ready to celebrate the eventual win.
Many said with some of the challenges 2020 has brought — including coronavirus, deaths, job losses and other struggles — this was the perfect way to kick off the upcoming work week.
“Los Angeles really needed this. It’s been a rollercoaster for everybody around the world,” Lakers fan Gregory Paul said. “I don’t know if everybody believes in guardian angels but I think Kobe definitely has a soft spot for the Lakers forever and ever.”
This marked the franchise’s 17th ever title and its first since 2010 when late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant brought the team to victory.