Lakers Uplift Economically Depressed L.A.

Fans cheer on the national champion Los Angeles Lakers at a victory parade in Los Angeles June 17, 2009. The parade was nearly cancelled when city workers balked at the idea of the city - $500 million in debt - shelling out $2 million in logistical costs, but wealthy donors and the team agreed to split the tab.
Everyone loves a parade - but the one for the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers today was particularly special, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

Despite deficits, budget cuts and layoffs, the City of Angels had a devil-may-care attitude today. Beaten down by recession, but lifted up by the NBA champion L.A. Lakers.

"We take our mind off of what's happening with this whole economic crisis. And together we are brothers and sisters right now," said fan Lisa Barona.

Ricardo Rodriguez brought his son to - finally - see their favorite team.

Rodriguez said he can't afford to go to the games.

"Wish I could," he said. But the parade? "Oh yeah - that's free!"

Paraded through downtown, the Lakers were carried on a wave of euphoria from hundreds of thousands of fans three miles to the Coliseum, where a capacity crowd - some who waited all night - basked in the glow of their conquering heroes.

This almost didn't happen. Facing a $500 million deficit, laid off city workers howled at the thought cash-strapped L.A. would pay $2 million of taxpayers money for services and crowd control for one of the most profitable franchises in sports - despite the fact that Lakers' victory elicited riots Sunday night.

After much hand-wringing, the Lakers coughed up half the money, local billionaires and an Indian casino the rest, saying the city couldn't afford not to celebrate the Lakers.

"There's over a hundred games each season. We estimate it's about $1.5 million generated per game, about $150 million per season," said Jack Kyser of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

In fact the city estimates today's parade will generate another $15 million.

"We are all going through tough times economically, but we are showing support for the Lakers because all of us have one thing in common," said fan Tony Park.

...And one day to celebrate - when mundane concerns like budget shortfalls seem far away.