April 29, 1992. Game three of the play-offs. Clippers winning the series against the Lakers 2-0. Forth quarter, game is tied. My boss had given me a pair of tickets and I almost didn’t go. I never did like basketball but had a friend who really wanted to go. He offered to pick up the bar tab for the night so I figured I could withstand a few hours. It turned out to be pretty exciting. The place was sold out and the crowd was going nuts.
We were having a few drinks and having a good time when they stopped the game and made an announcement. They told the crowd that when they left to go home that they were not to head north or east. They were instructed to use the west exits. They then resumed the game. We figured there was just a bad accident at an intersection and they closed off those roads. We were on our motorcycles anyway so we were not too worried. So I got up from the seats to get us a couple of more beers.
When I came out of the tunnel into the walkway I saw groups of people gathering around the television sets that hung throughout the building. I could see fire burning on the screen. That must be why we can’t drive in that direction, I thought.
I went to the beer stand but there was no one there, I walked to another booth and that also was empty. Then they made the second announcement.
The game had just ended and we were told to leave the arena right away. As I walked through the open double doors and into the warm air I could smell the smoke. Ashes fell like rain. and then I heard the gun shots, one after the other. We jumped on our bikes and followed the line of cars as the police extorted everyone down a back road and onto the highway.
That was day one of the riots. Once on the highway we opened up the throttles and flew home. We watch the fires and damage being done from the t.v. in the living room. Of course my buddy says “Hey let’s go back and get a t.v. set”, of course I ignored him. Two white guys with long hair I’m sure would just blend right in.
When all was said and done the riot would last six days and claim 53 lives. And cause millions in damage. It was so crazy that the National Guard would not even go in to those neighborhoods to try to stop it. Could you imagine civil unrest throughout the country. Government would never be able to control a mass overtaking.
The next weekend I returned to the Forum for a Van Halen concert. The opening acts would not go into that area. Van Halen played for three and a half hours. Driving through the streets that night is something I will never forget. Buildings burnt, glass everywhere. Broken appliances littered the streets, Black Owned spray painted on walls, cars smashed and torched on the sidewalks. The smell was horrid. We passed the intersection where the truck driver’s head was smashed by that brick. It was chilling. Korean store owners still stayed perched on the building that were not destroyed. They sat up there with their rifles pointed down, like the victors in the taking of a city in some far off war.
Van Halen did rock that night though. but I never did go back to another basketball game ever.