The confetti swirled around the court as the Lakers left the Coliseum. Paper-thin squares of purple, gold and white, fluttering in the early afternoon breeze.
Within minutes the Lakers were gone, packed back into air-conditioned charter buses and on their way home for a champagne-soaked summer.
This season was one to savor.
Will next season be, too?
The Lakers victory parade and rally at the Coliseum drew approximately 150,000 fans who came to celebrate the team’s 15th NBA title but with the distinct hope it was the start of a new dynasty, not a fleeting glory.
“It was Laker-monium in here today,” said Wendree White, who has been selling sausages and turkey dogs at the Coliseum since the 1984 Olympics. “Laker-monium. I don’t know what the decibel level was inside, but it was loud.
“Now we just got to get Mitch Kupchak to bring everyone back, Lamar (Odom), Trevor (Ariza), Shannon (Brown) and Phil (Jackson), so we can win again next year.”
Exactly one year had passed since the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals and Wednesday’s victory parade.
But no sooner had the Lakers covered the 2.2 miles from Staples Center to the L.A. Coliseum in their double-decker buses, than questions about next year came up.
Lakers television commentators Joel Meyers and Stu Lantz emceed the event, but made sure to grill coach Phil Jackson and Finals MVP Kobe Bryant –who can opt out of the final two years of his contract on July 1st — on whether both would be back with the team next year.
“I had to,” Lantz said afterwards. “Had to.”
He got a pretty good answer from Bryant, who led his teammates and the 80,000 fans who packed the Coliseum in a cheer of “1-2-3 … Ring!” to cap the rally.
“Where am I going to go, this is my home,” Bryant said, drawing the loudest cheer of the afternoon from the crowd.
“We have a young team, we have a chemistry. We feel this championship, we feel the energy of the city. We want want to do this again and again.”
Jackson, who won his record 10th NBA title, but will turn 64 in September, wasn’t as committal, though it is still believed he will return for the final year of his contract.
“Thanks,” was all Jackson said when Meyers said “We hope you’re back at least one more time” following Jackson’s address to the crowd.
Jackson has said he’ll take some time after the season to evaluate his situation before committing to another season. Wednesday he thanked the fans, his family and his team for a memorable season.
“To this team, what was our motto on this team? The Ring. The Ring,” Jackson said. “That was the motto. It’s not just this band of gold, it’s the circle that’s made a bond between all of these players. They have a great love for one another.”
They also, obviously have a great affection for their fans, who turned out in droves to celebrate the team’s first title since 2002.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol blew kisses to the crowd as he stepped to the microphone, standing on the Lakers court which had been brought over from Staples Center and re-assembled on the podium inside.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of this team, be a part of this city, be a part of this community, so thank you so much,” Gasol said.
“I want to thank everybody for being here today, you guys are making our day.
“After experiencing what we experienced in the parade coming here and being in this beautiful stadium. We want to definitely offer you more. So be ready for it.”