LOS ANGELES – Thousands of screaming fans saluted the world champion Los Angeles Lakers Monday in a two-mile parade that left no doubt that expectations for a three-peat are high.
Laker starters Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest waved to the crowd from a flatbed truck festooned in purple and gold and surrounded by a white picket fence.
Bryant has five titles, but "this is the best one by far because it was the hardest one to get," he said.
Looking ahead, Bryant told reporters, "When next season starts, we'll be ready, that's for sure."
The parade capped a season that ended Thursday with an 83-79 Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics and a 16th NBA title for the Lakers.
The two-mile toast took the Lakers from Staples Center downtown south to the Galen Center at the University of Southern California. The Laker Girls, riding in a fire truck, preceded the players along the parade route.
Officials estimated the parade might attract as many as two million fans. Police did not offer a crowd estimate. It was a parade only — no rally, no speeches, no music and no other hoopla at beginning or end.
Bernard Hinson, 50, and his 8-year-old son, Aaron, came from Oakland to watch the parade. Hinson said he chose a spot close to the beginning because he thought it would be safer. Of the crowd, he said: "Ninety percent are true Lakers fans. Ten percent are here to cause trouble."
It was Aaron's second parade and last year he only got a glimpse of the players. "This one's going to be better because we'll see the players," the youngster said.
There was a heavy blue line, with police lined up every few feet on both sides of the parade route. Officers in cars and helicopters added to the police presence.
Police Chief Charlie Beck held an early morning news conference to warn troublemakers that police would not tolerate a repeat of the violence that occurred Thursday when the Lakers won the NBA championship. There were no serious injuries, but a lot of damage from vandalism and fires.
"If you're coming here to vandalize, if you're coming here to disrupt, well, then you're going to stay because we are going to put you in jail," Beck said.
The Lakers were footing the bill for the Figueroa Street parade.
Along the parade route, one fan hoisted a foam tombstone reading "RIP Boston." A woman carried a homemade poster boasting: "Back to back without Shak."
The high-energy, flag-waving crowd sat in lawn chairs, snuggled in blankets and dodged Silly String and confetti. The shrill blare of bull horns and other spontaneous buzz took place amid splotches of purple, gold, blue and white jerseys.
Ana Zavalza, 26, of Whittier, arrived to take part in her first Lakers victory parade. "I'm disappointed they are not going to have a rally at the end. I expected more."
Tickets to playoff games were too expensive for Teresa Howe, 42, of Simi Valley. "I get to see the players for free," she said. "Twenty dollars for parking doesn't compare to thousands of dollars for Lakers tickets."
She said she enjoyed sharing back-to-back memories with fellow fans. "I'm just as excited this year because it's the second time in a row. I'm looking forward to a threepeat. And I'll be here next year."
Fan Jimmy Baskom, 58, said he took the day off from his job as a window washer in Palmdale because he wanted to see his longtime basketball heroes in person. He wore a purple and gold jacket and hat.
"I've been a die-hard fan all my life and I watch every game but this is my first opportunity to see them in person," he said.
Associated Press Writer Christina Hoag contributed to this report.