Last Thursday, I was able to experience something few people will ever see in their lifetimes. I was able to watch, up close and personal, as my favorite team celebrated winning a championship. It was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. Since I'm fully aware just how lucky I am to have gotten this opportunity, I used said opportunity to try my best to capture the event for the people who got me to where I was, the fine members of Silver Screen and Roll.
After the jump, I've created sort of a video diary of events that occurred after the Lakers Game 7 victory. Some of the video is pretty rough (especially the audio), and I apologize for portions of certain videos where my ample belly gets a little too much screen time (it's clothed, mind you, so don't get too scared) while I fumble with the camera, but all in all, I got some pretty awesome footage that you definitely would not be able to see otherwise. Enjoy!!
We'll get started right where I left off in my recap of the Game 7 (actual game) experience. As the game ended, I ran to the elevators which take you down to the main floor. Since everyone else was busy watching the players go nuts on the court (something I never got to see until I went home), the elevator was completely empty. By the time I got down to the Events level, the stage was already being set up for the trophy presentation, but I quickly found out that press were not being allowed on the floor. So I ran upstairs to the Main level to carve out some space to take pictures and video with. The circumstances were far from ideal, but here is the video of the final round of applause from the crowd. Notice that there doesn't appear to be an empty seat in the house. For one night only, traffic could wait.
With the events on the court coming to a close, I set about my next task, getting into the locker room. Here's how the locker room thing normally works. All the press form a huge line along one side of the tunnels that go through the bottom of Staples. They wait in these lines patiently until the doors to the locker room open up and then everybody moves forward like a herd of cattle. There are people who are a little more forceful, people who might run through the hallway into the locker room, but it's generally pretty orderly. Once you are in the locker room, it can be a bit of a madhouse, but just getting in usually isn't too much trouble.
Getting into the locker room of a champion? You better be ready to fight to the death (only a slight exaggeration). I came to the entrance of the press conference room and was confronted with a mob of people holding cameras and microphones which were covered in garbage bags and other materials to keep them from getting damaged by a champagne shower. As the Lakers made their way from the court to the locker room, I tried to get a decent shot, but instead all I got was the backside of the guy in front of me, who was standing on a trash can which couldn't support his weight, with one hand resting on a partner's head, and a camera on his shoulder. Next year, I'll make sure to push for two SSR press credentials so that I can provide you with better coverage.
Once the team was through to the locker room, the mob of press surged forward. It's a good thing nobody tripped, because this is how people get trampled. Being a big guy with decent strength, I managed to finagle my way pretty close to the front in the madness. To paint a picture, the tunnel which leads off the court and into the outside ring underneat Staples is probably about 15 feet wide. It comes to a T with the ring. The press room is on the left, and the locker rooms are on the right. The entrace to the locker room section has two huge double doors, and this is where the press were prevented from advancing by at least 5 security guards and some Lakers PR personnel. What was funny about the mob is that it cut off quite a few people who were associated with the team (mostly family) before they had a chance to get past. Watch Mitch Kupchak try to get through.
One guy who didn't even try? Jerry Buss. Here's a video of him and Bill Walton just chatting off to the side. Bill eventually fought his way through the masses, but Buss never did. I guess owning a champion ain't all it's cracked up to be.
The best part about the crowd is that it prevented anybody from leaving. The only people interested in leaving would be the losers, so any time a member of the Celtics wanted to leave the arena, the security guards would have to make a path through the mob. I had a great shot of Doc Rivers leaving, but the video didn't load properly. Sad face. Oh wait, I don't have to use words for that. =(
Eventually, the security guards started letting people in one at a time. I got myself to the front of the line, and the Lakers PR guy was asking who people are with. Just ahead of me, he let in some guys from big foreign press instituions like La Prensa. When he found out who I was with, he said I couldn't go through yet. Here, I made what I believe to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. I could have made a stink. I could have gotten angry. Instead, I looked right at the guy, nodded, and said "I understand, no problem". And it led to one of the highlights of my night.
A couple minutes later, there's a small amount of pushing. Two guys are trying to force themselves to the front. Slightly annoyed, I look over my right shoulder, and find myself, quite literally, face to face with Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer for Red Hot Chili Peppers. The two guys forcing their way to the front were him and band mate Flea, both huge Lakers fans. They were trying to get into the Lakers locker room. The Lakers PR guy told them "Sorry, press only". Flea said somebody from the NBA had invited them. "Who?" the PR guy asked. They told him (the name escapes me) and he just shook his head. "Sorry, it's too full." Discouraged, AK and Flea retreated. 30 seconds later, PR guy looks at me and says "You from SB Nation ... go ahead." Sorry, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Tonight, I outrank you.
Sadly, once I got inside, much of the madness you generally associate with locker room celebrations was over. I did not get the champagne shower I so desperately wanted. The place smelled exactly like what you'd think a combination of spilled alcohol and sweat would smell like. I scoped out the table where, previously, 4 buckets filled with champagne and beer lay ready to be poured all over people's heads. All that was left were a few empties (though the bottle is still damn cool).
Most of the players weren't around, hiding in the various rooms surrounding the locker room which are private. But there was a guest in attendance that was very special, the Larry o'Brien trophy, in the hands of one DJ Mbenga.
Then, the star of the locker room showed up. Ron Artest was the only guy on the Lakers who was routinely interesting to interview, as you might expect. Here was his entrance to the locker room.
Then, Artest got handed the trophy. I could describe this video, but you really need to just watch it. Fucking amazing.
Lamar made his entrace ... and disappeared just as quickly.
As did Pau Gasol. Actually, head Lakers PR guy John Black had to keep Pau from answering questions, because Pau is so nice, he'll just stand there forever. Enjoy a little foreign language interviewing. Can somebody translate?
At this point, I was considering leaving. Things were slowing down considerably, the locker room was no longer packed to the brim, and most of the players were no longer around. Jordan Farmar was hanging out with his family, and Sasha Vujacic was one of the last guys in the room. I'm glad I didn't leave, because Fisher came in with the trophy in his hands, obviously inebriated, and made his way over to The Machine.
I have an awesome video of Fisher and Sasha talking to each other on my phone, but I don't have the ability to upload that to the web without paying extra, so tough cookies. I screwed up the recording on the video anyway, so let me just transcribe:
DF: Saaaaasssshhhhaaaaa .... The Machiiiiiinnnnnnnnneeeee.
DF:Let me tell you guys something ... when this guy got fouled, we knew those things were going in.
DF: That's why he's The Machine (pause) The Self-Proclaimed Machine.
SV: You know I didn't start that.
SV: You know what Derek's nickname is? In Spanish, we call him "El Presidente". The President. If you've ever listened to one of his speeches, you'd know. Don't be surprised when he runs for office in a few years.
Then, just as I was heading out, Luke Walton was heading back in. Watch as some guy I don't know tries to get Luke (who apparently doesn't drink) to take a swig of some good hard liquor. Classic.
At this point, we got kicked out of the locker room. I went to the press room, packed up my belongings, and headed out. As previously mentioned, the scene outside Staples was surreal, and if I thought I could get away with it without having my camera confiscated, I would have taken video of the police presence outside the arena. It was pretty crazy.
Thus ends my postgame celebration video tour. I hope you enjoyed it, I hope I did justice to the honor that was bestowed upon me. I will never forget it, and now, you can remember it, too.