Lakers celebrate 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."
Stern encouraged cheers for "a Laker team that showed us an extraordinary amount of dedication ... and to the Laker fans around the world."
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 D.J. 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 finals.
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, who they beat 99-92.
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 the years.
"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."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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