Lakers Raise Championship Banner, Get Rings
By Greg Beacham, AP
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Derek Fisher led the Staples Center crowd in a
3-2-1 countdown to the unveiling of the banner commemorating the Los
Angeles Lakers' 15th championship.
Then the Lakers got back to work on counting to 16.
Nine former Lakers joined the crowd in welcoming the franchise's latest
bunch of champions into their fraternity Tuesday night before the
season opener against the Clippers. Wearing purple warmup jackets with
15 gold stars on the back, the Lakers' remarkably intact roster
received its rings from NBA commissioner David Stern and Lakers
executive vice president Jeanie Buss.
"Tonight is such a special night for our team," Fisher said to the
crowd. "We know every night we come out here ... the support from you
has just been unbelievable all these years."
Kobe Bryant got the final ring -- and congratulations from Lakers
greats including Jerry West and Magic Johnson -- before the new gold
banner was revealed high atop the arena.
Stern encouraged cheers for "a Laker team that showed us an
extraordinary amount of dedication ... and to the Laker fans around the
Calling him "the greatest owner in
sports," Johnson urged a standing ovation for 75-year-old Jerry Buss,
who watched from a luxury box high up in Staples Center.
West represented the Lakers' 1972 champions. He was joined by Norm
Nixon (1980), Jamaal Wilkes (1982), James Worthy (1985), Michael Cooper
(1987), Johnson (1988), A.C. Green (2000), Rick Fox (2001) and Robert
Horry (2002). The Lakers also won five titles in Minneapolis.
NBA career scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar even was on hand to
accept his ring as a special assistant coach to the current Lakers.
Twelve members of last season's team are back with the Lakers this
season, from noncontributors such as Adam Morrison and DJ Mbenga to
every significant member of last season's squad except Trevor Ariza,
who swapped places with Ron Artest in Houston.
The Lakers rolled to their 10th title on the West Coast through a
difficult playoff run, including a seven-game series against the
Rockets and a six-game triumph over Denver in the Western Conference
Los Angeles finally eliminated the
Orlando Magic in five games, leading to a championship parade and
celebration at the Coliseum. Bryant was the finals MVP after winning
his first title without Shaquille O'Neal.
After the banner unveiling and cheers to the strains of Randy Newman's
"I Love L.A.," the Lakers all placed their rings on a table next to the
Larry O'Brien Trophy and faced the Clippers, taking a 59-49 lead at
Lakers coach Phil Jackson got a
special ovation from the crowd when he received his 10th championship
ring as a coach, in addition to the ring he still occasionally wears
from his playing days with the New York Knicks.
That Knicks ring is missing a diamond after he lost it at a Bennigan's
restaurant while he was an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, whom
he later coached to six championships. Yet the Knicks ring is perhaps
the only one in his collection that's suitable for day-to-day wear,
given the baubles' gradual increases in size and ostentatiousness over
"I don't think any of them are
wearable since they went to this format," Jackson said, calling them
"too gaudy, too large. You can't shake hands with anybody."
Jackson typically breaks out the ring from his most recent title during
the following playoff run, which means he's been breaking out the
Lakers' 2002 title ring for the past few postseasons.
"I really disliked that ring," he said with a laugh. "It looked like a clown's face, actually."
Received 10/28/09 12:08 am ET