"We came, we saw, we conquered everything in sight. Moment of silence for the champions."
—Ron Artest, "Champions"
"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
—Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Today, approximately 65,000 people lined the streets of Los Angeles to participate in what has become an annual tradition here, the kind of tradition fans in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Salt Lake City and Portland wait their entire lives for—an NBA championship parade.
The parade was a more muted celebration than in years past.
Maybe the fans had already exerted themselves in the traditional postgame automobile torchings.
Or maybe it was because the city wasn't footing the tab for this year's parade like they did last year's, so there was no staging area as in years past. Well, at least our mayor had good seats to the games this season, so not everyone's hurting.
Maybe it's because one of their leaders, Phil Jackson, was absent for a medical appointment that could prolong his absence into retirement next season. Longtime girlfriend and Twitpic chronicler Jeannie Buss wore his X hat from last year's celebration with a "+ 1" affixed to it. X + 1, sweet, simple algebra, lucky 11 for Phil and sweet 16 for the Lakers' franchise.
Maybe it's because the fans' mood isn't so much one of revelry as relief. After outlasting the Boston Celtics in a seven-game slugfest resembling Rocky II , and a particularly ugly, if dramatic, last game, everyone just seemed happy not to play the Buffalo Bills to the Celtics' Dallas Cowboys for the second time in three years.
Or, finally, maybe it's just because being a Laker fan is different, like being a fan of those Cowboys, the New York Yankees, the hated Celtics, or one of college football's powerhouses. Winning championships are expected, and when the team falls short of that goal, imminent ruin awaits, just as it did for the team when they lost the 2004 NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, and just as it might for the Celtics after their draining loss in this year's Finals.
It's what one might call "acting like you've been there."
The biggest star to emerge from this Lakers championship team is the one guy who hasn't been there, Ron Artest, a former pit bull turned goofy sweetheart after finding a good home with the Lakers and the right prescription of meds from the mysterious Dr. Santi. No offense to Kobe Bryant, but we finally have a player whose personality off the court matches or exceeds his play off of it.
From his already classic postgame press conference, to Jimmy Kimmel, to the parade today, Artest has turned from goat-in-waiting, whose next three-pointer usually meant jump-starting the opposing team's fast break, to team cheerleader and hero, whose last three-point attempt helped win the whole thing. Even today, the week after beating the Celtics and months before the season begins, he was urging fans on in a "Boston Sucks" cheer.
Like the old In Living Color character Calhoun Tubbs , he even "wrote a song about it, like to hear it" about the Lakers' championship conquest.
Whatever production the Lakers get in the final year of his contract in 2014, Artest has proven to be a greater asset than Trevor Ariza could ever be, a perfect, if perfectly odd, L.A. athlete—Dennis Rodman, Robert Horry, Mark Madsen and Kanye West all rolled into one.
After that win on Thursday, Coach Jackson said, "I've got to take a deep breath. I've got to take some time and think about this. This was great. I'll wait to make that decision in a week."
Before the offseason chattering and nattering regarding Phil Jackson's return or retirement, signing a new young charge to split time with Derek Fisher at the point, or the long-bandied Chris Bosh-for-Andrew Bynum rumors, I urge Lakers fans to do the same as their coach.
Life moves pretty fast, especially in the NBA.
LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and a cabal of free agents could be marshalling their forces in an NBA city to be named in an effort to take down the now two-time champs.
A potential lockout, even though two seasons off, could be here before you know it.
You can start gnashing those teeth again in, oh, approximately 72 hours when the Washington Wizards select John Wall with their first pick and kick off what is usually an active day of player transactions. In another 72 hours, we may know whether or not Phil Jackson will return.
For now, though, Laker fans, just enjoy the silence.