The Los Angeles Lakers' 106-93 victory against the Miami Heat on Oct. 11 marked their 17th NBA title in franchise history. The team, fans and community rejoiced in the championship victory, but will have to wait before they can celebrate together.
Will Steele, a junior majoring in public health at USC, said he hoped there would be a way for fans to interact with the players and show their appreciation for all their hard work inside the Bubble, the NBA’s isolation zone where games were played during the pandemic.
“Watching from our living rooms instead of the Staples Center was disappointing as a fan and my hope was that fans would be able to celebrate with the team and city in some way,” said Steele.
Traditionally, a championship victory parade would follow after a team captures the NBA title, but much like the running theme of this year, COVID-19 had other plans.
The Lakers sent out a tweet on Oct. 12 and announced that a public celebration will take place once it is deemed safe to do so. The final decision was made by the city, the county and the Lakers themselves.
With the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s order prohibiting large gatherings still in effect, a celebratory parade is currently out of the question.
There were mixed reactions within the community, with some fans disappointed, while others said they understand why the decision was made, given the current circumstances.
Steele was very disappointed to find out that there would be no parade this year. “Although I really want to be able to attend a parade, I understand the circumstances of COVID-19 and how this may cause an outbreak of the virus,” said Steele.
“Why ruin a good time with COVID? The fact that the NBA was able to play their season without a case of COVID shows that they know what they’re doing,” said Robert Rocha, a senior majoring in sports psychology at Cal State Long Beach. “Holding a parade would only increase the chances of it spreading.”
Despite concerns of the virus continuing to spread, L.A. County is seeing a drop in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. According to the Los Angeles Times, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have dropped to their lowest levels in months. Despite these encouraging signs, the city and county are not taking any chances as the pandemic continues.
In contrast, the National Hockey League champions this year, the Tampa Bay Lightning, celebrated their Stanley Cup victory in the form of a boat parade and held a stadium event for their fans.
Both the Lakers and Lightning experienced championship droughts lasting over a decade, but only one team was able to celebrate with their community. With Florida’s reopening process going faster than California’s, some said it is no surprise that Los Angeles will not hold an immediate victory celebration.
Steele said that if teams and cities can hold a celebratory parade safely, they should be able to do so.
“I hope that our local government is looking out for our well-being and not preventing the parade only for political reasons,” said Steele. “The virus has had many different interpretations and guidelines based on the state’s political leanings, and I just hope that California is making the right choice to protect its people.”
David Van, a Laker fan in Monterey Park, was disappointed when he heard the parade won’t be happening just yet, but understood why the decision was made.
“It is a smart decision because the Lakers have to do their part of being responsible and not host a parade where they know tens of thousands of people will attend,” said Van. " Why should they encourage people to attend when the whole state is trying to work to allow these sorts of activities on a normal basis?"
Alex Hernandez, a Laker fan and Angeleno, echoed the same sentiments. “I wasn’t too disappointed about the parade because it is important to be safe. Even though we all wanted to have a parade family and health comes first,” Hernandez said.
When the time comes for a championship parade, Laker fans said they will not hesitate to come out and celebrate their team’s 17th championship.
“I’ve been so excited to have a celebration after everything that happened in 2020,” said Hernandez. “The city of Los Angeles needed something to celebrate and we are happy LeBron James fulfilled his promise and brought a championship back to Los Angeles.”
Van, who described himself as a die-hard Laker fan, is looking forward to the day when the parade will be held and the fans can celebrate with the “Lake Show.”
“If there is a parade, I’d call off that day. No questions asked.”