PHILADELPHIA -- With 1.7 million people waving signs, pennants and brooms lining the streets on a gloriously sunny day Thursday, the Philadelphia 76ers shared the NBA championship with their fans.
The parade began in the downtown area and proceeded about five miles down Broad Street to Veterans Stadium, where acrowd of 62,000 welcomed their heroes and cheered, sang and danced through a 30-minute program.
The parade snaked through crowds that were 10 and 15 deep in most areas. Fans who had broken through barricades were kept back by police horses. Confetti and ticker tape poured through the windows of buildings while people leaned out windows for better looks at the 76ers.
As the Sixers passed, many yelled 'Sweep, Sweep, Sweep' or 'We're No. 1' while cheering their favorites. Coach Billy Cunningham and owner Harold Katz balanced the NBA championship trophy on the front railing of the flatbed truck they were riding for all to see.
Pennants and signs were everywhere, as were a few brooms held up to mark the Sixers' sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Some of the signs read: 'Maurice Cheeks -- the Perfect 10,' 'I Luv Erving,' 'How Sweep It Is,' 'Thanks Harold for Bringing the $,' 'Billy C. For Mayor,' and 'Malone and Dr. J. Took All the Magic From LA and Now It's Here to Stay.'
The players rode open trucks in the parade and then switched to convertibles as they headed into the Vet to the songs 'Celebration' and 'Shout.' Julius Erving and Andrew Toney, riding in the last car, were so taken by the celebrating that they began an impromptu dance as their vehicle wheeled around the stadium.
'We thank you fans from the bottom of our hearts for this day and coming out here and sharing this with us,' said Erving, who received the loudest and longest ovation. 'We're not going to let anybody take our title, right guys?
'We've been trying to get this for seven years,' added Erving, referring to the Sixers' near-misses in 1977, 1980 and 1982. 'On three different occasions we almost made it but it wasn't the 76ers who almost made it, it was the city of Philadelphia that almost made it.
'Now we're in a situation where the people of Philadelphia who have friends, relatives, acquaintances and even enemies in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington and all the other cities in the NBA can say, Philadelphia now has the world championship.
'There was nothing pretty about what we did to the NBA this year. It was absolutely beautiful.'
The rest of the starting five -- Moses Malone, Toney, Cheeks and Marc Iavaroni -- as well as sixth man Bobby Jones, addressed the crowd briefly as did Cunningham and Katz.
'Today you fans showed such support and showed why Philadelphia is the greatest sports town in the world,' Cunningham said. 'I just hope every one of you here truly feels they're a part of that trophy.'
For sure, all the people were in a mood to party.
'I'm getting stomped on out here but it's worth it,' said Hazel Newton, a Philadelphia secretary watching the parade on her lunch hour.
'I'm celebrating my birthday with the Sixers and a bottle of Baccardi,' said Mark Shusterman, who took the day off from his job as a factory worker in Pennsauken, N.J.
It was the fourth parade thrown by the city in the last nine years. The city also celebrated Stanley Cup victories by the Flyers in 1974 and 1975 and the World Series championship of the Phillies in 1980.
One person, Keith Mitchell, a sales representative, said the Sixers' parade was more special than the others.
'This has impact on blacks and whites,' he said. 'Everybody likes basketball. This crowd is much more integrated than the Flyers' parade.'