With the Los Angeles Lakers taking a 3-1 lead on the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the job isn’t finished, but it’s awfully close. In most years, this would be the time for people with the team and city to start tentatively planning their championship parade route down Figueroa.
2020 is not most years. Even if they finish this series out and win their 17th championship in franchise history, the Lakers won’t be able to properly christen the new Kobe Bryant Boulevard section of the traditional route down Figueroa leading up to Staples Center, which was recently renamed to honor of the man who fueled so many past title celebrations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not gone anywhere, and doesn’t figure to by the end of this week. Los Angeles has still banned all large gatherings of people not from the same household, with the exception of religious services or political protests. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said in the past that he doesn’t see that changing until 2021 at the earliest.
“It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands any time soon, so I think we should be prepared for that this year,” Garcetti said during a CNN appearance in April.
The L.A. County Health Order that was issued for the coronavirus pandemic even has a section specifically pertaining to vehicle based parades, and it describes the allowable ones as such:
A Vehicle-Based Parade is an event where, during the entirety of the event, every participant, excluding the Host, Personnel, and security, except as expressly provided herein, remains in a fully enclosed motorized vehicle with the seat belt fastened and where all occupants of each enclosed vehicle are members of a single household. For clarity, an enclosed vehicle does not include a motorcycle, a convertible with the top open, a vehicle with no doors, or a bicycle.
Does that sound like a championship parade to anyone? No open-air buses or floats, no one not from the same household in a car, and very few people allowed outside? It does not, and there is just no way the city is going to make an exception during a pandemic because of how many fans a championship parade would attract if it happened, even if the Lakers were to try and enforce mask usage and social distancing guidelines. It would just be unsafe and irresponsible.
As unfortunate as that reality is, it’s a reality Lakers governor Jeanie Buss seems to have accepted, judging by her comments on a recent episode of “Inside the Green Room” when asked by host Harrison Sanford about the possibility of a parade:
“If we are so fortunate to win a championship, I think Lakers fans need to rest assured that if we are ever in that position we will have something where everybody can feel that connection to the team and to celebrate safely, because as you said, we are in a pandemic and large gatherings are prohibited, and we want to keep everybody safe.
“This really is for the fans. Laker fans, we feel disconnected from our team, and hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate. And no matter what happens, we want to celebrate this team because they’ve really given us so many moments of joy this season during what has been a really down, depressing time for all of us going through so many different things.”
But as much as not being able to have a parade will suck, it’s far from the worst thing we’ve lost in the year 2020. The Lakers winning a title, if that should happen, will still be worthy of a (responsible) celebration. So what should the Lakers do?
Well, for one thing, as we’ve seen with the MTV Video Awards and the more recent 2020 Emmy Awards, Hollywood is getting better and better at planning awards shows responsibly, through a combination of virtual appearances, social distancing and masking. If the Lakers can’t reach out and wave to their fans while driving to Staples Center, maybe they can at least replicate the speeches that usually come at the end of those parade routes, and speak to the fans through virtual means. It’s not the same, but it would still be some form of celebration at the very least.
If the Lakers don’t want to go that high-maintenance, perhaps they could just organize some sort of scheduled Instagram Live session, with each player taking a predetermined amount of time to just chat with Lakers fans, sort of like cyber-waving as the parade goes by. Again, it wouldn’t be like normal, but it could be a decent alternative.
Those are just two suggestions, but I’m honestly curious what you think about it, since it’s an event for Lakers fans more so than anyone. What would you consider an enjoyable parade alternative, if the Lakers do actually get this done? Let us know in the comments below, because I’d love to brainstorm, and who knows, maybe the team will even read it and get some ideas. We’re all smarter when we put our heads together.