After a blowout win for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, thousands of fans flooded the streets surrounding STAPLES Center. Given the passing of Lakers icon Kobe Bryant in March, this win means even more to the franchise and its fans. The Lakers also tied the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history with 17.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was ecstatic about the victory, advised fans to stay home and celebrate.
“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!”
All decked out in Lakers gear, fans chanted “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” through the streets of Downtown LA, which were lit with illegal fireworks launched from vehicles. Cars honked and people applauded from both inside cars and on the streets.
What started off as a pleasant scene with people mainly in their cars quickly turned chaotic as the crowds became rowdy and gathered in close distance. The LAPD had to close roads and attempted to disperse the large crowds after facing resistance. SWAT team officials responded to the scene and 76 people have been arrested on accounts of vandalism and unlawful assembly, according to the L.A. Times.
“In LA County, there are still a lot of active [COVID-19] cases,” OSU International Health professor Chunhuei Chi said when asked if Sunday night’s gathering at STAPLES Center posed a large risk for the health of LA County. “So when you have those conditions, it’s also a very high risk situation to have a club gathering. Outdoor events are safer than indoor, but from the footage I saw, the people were too close. Especially for those people without facial masks.”
The Lakers' victory allowed fans to forget L.A. is in the midst of a pandemic for one night. Fans got caught up in the celebrations, having the Lakers' on the forefront of their minds and neglecting the consequences that come with gathering in large groups with or without masks.
There is no set date yet for the Lakers' championship parade because of COVID-19, but fans could not wait to get a head start on the celebration.
L.A. Lakers fan Andres De Anda attended the gathering and spoke of his memorable experience after his photograph from the event went viral on Twitter.
“While following COVID-19 protocols, I enjoyed a very special night,” De Anda said. “It was a long-awaited night for 10 years, and during a pandemic where everything has been so negative, being at STAPLES Center with people who all share a similar interest was amazing. Seeing fireworks shoot into the sky, buildings light up purple and gold, cars honking, and people chanting ‘Kobe’ was bigger than basketball. It was Los Angeles pride.”