Ron Artest, the new cult hero of the Lakers, had one question as he stepped off the parade bus and touched the top of his hat.
"My feathers are still up there, right?"
Indeed they are, Ron.
Artest and the rest of the Lakers took part in the championship parade Monday morning, starting at Staples Center and working their way toward the USC campus in front of a crowd estimated by police at 65,000 to 70,000.
Artest puffed on a cigar and wore a black top hat festooned with purple and gold feathers that his daughter glued to it, the latest celebratory act for the player who had partied the most since the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals on Thursday.
"I slept a total of 30 to 40 minutes in three days," said Artest, who has danced at nightclubs in his Lakers jersey since the team won its 16th title and also managed to squeeze in a recording session with noted music producer Dr. Dre for a song called "Champion."
He wasn't the only elated Lakers player taking part on a caravan of buses as it worked its way through a throng of fans until reaching the Galen Center on the corner of the USC campus.
"We were looking at them straight in the eye," Pau Gasol said. "We were happy, they were happy. It was just a great moment to experience."
Lakers owner Jerry Buss did not take part in the parade, which wasn't overly surprising after he skipped it last year and was photographed playing cards at a local casino.
What was more surprising was the absence of Lakers Coach Phil Jackson.
"Phil had doctor appointments that were scheduled and couldn't be changed," Lakers spokesman John Black said. "He has a very small window where he needs to get these done to make a decision [on whether to return next season] as quickly as possible. We're not pressuring him, but it was imperative he gets these appointments done today."
Jackson is expected to decide this week whether he will continue to coach the Lakers.
Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant took part in the parade, soaking in the adulation and cheers of Lakers followers along the two-mile route that took about an hour to complete. Both players will head to South Africa this week to watch World Cup soccer, and then they'll each have some decisions to make.
Bryant will explore options for surgery on his injured right index finger and right knee. Bynum will definitely undergo a procedure to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.
"It's something that I've got to do," Bynum said. "I've got to get my knee back so I can play a whole season next season. I'm looking forward to next season. I can't wait."
Beyond that, there remained an air of excitement after the Lakers' 83-79 victory over the Celtics in Game 7.
"It's incredible for a basketball player to be able to play against a team like that," Lamar Odom said. "I have a lot of respect for all those guys. I'm tired now. I just want to go home and relax. But I think everybody understands what it is to beat Boston."
There were no guarantees of a third consecutive championship from any players, but Artest grabbed a microphone on the parade bus and started up a chant of "Ko-be, Ko-be" that was repeated by parade onlookers.
"I wanted to jump into the crowd," he said. "Stage-dive. Float-dive. Hopefully, after Kobe gets eight or nine rings and I have four or five rings, I can go into the crowd. I might tear an ACL . . . whatever."
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