EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A championship era turned three Wednesday, the party awash in champagne and relief, the thick-throated singing heard from here to Los Angeles.
There were streamers; swooping Kobe Bryant, dangling Robert Horry.
There were candles; Derek Fisher flickering, Devean George burning.
There were party bags filled with most surprising oddities, including an emotional Jerry Buss and a sweating Mitch Richmond.
And there was, of course, the mandatory visit from a giant, Shaquille O'Neal, who carried the entire Laker party to a 113-107 victory over the New Jersey Nets and a four-game sweep of the NBA Finals.
After which, he hugged his tiny, sobbing grandfather.
"I've never been so happy in my life to see a boy grow up to be a man," said Donald Harrison.
Thus also describes this team, which won its third consecutive NBA championship by navigating upstream with a heavy, exhausting stroke that can best described as three-style.
From the flops to the feuds to the fourth quarter two seasons ago against Portland to history.
They are the first Los Angeles Laker team to win three titles in a row, the first Laker team to sweep a finals series, and the first Laker team to celebrate by singing a children's song?
In their sour-smelling locker room afterward, the champagne puddling in their eyes and on the floor, they draped their giant arms around each other and pulled themselves into a small circle and chanted.
"Red light ... green light ... red light ... green light."
Explained Fisher: "That's the name of a children's game that we've talked about all year. We've used it to remind ourselves that it's like this team has been together since we were children. We've been through a lot."
Then, as if they didn't believe it themselves, they chanted another chant.
"One, two three ... one, two, three ... one, two, three."
Nobody said four, but, face it, that's what everybody was thinking. The party didn't feel like an ending, but a beginning. The players didn't talk about summer vacation, but summer toil.
"I'm sure Sacramento's working out right now," said Bryant, touching the gold championship ball with one hand while clenching his fist with the other. "They're going to try to take what we have. We're going to be waiting for them."
Like any good birthday song, the Lakers finished it with one thought.
And many more ...
"At least two more," said Rick Fox in the middle of the locker room, adding, "Will somebody get me a bottle!"
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