Basketball: Chicago celebrations muted

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CHICAGO staged official celebrations yesterday to mark the Bulls' NBA championship final victory over the Phoenix Suns, but the city was still picking itself up from the three deaths that resulted from the impromptu celebrations that turned into riots followed Sunday night's win.

Beside the deaths, two of which were from shootings, one other person was left critically injured in incidents which saw a crowd pulling drivers from their cars. Police said that 682 people had been arrested after the game, and of those 164 were charged, most of them with burglary. The violence occurred despite the presence of thousands of extra police officers on patrol and dollars 1m ( pounds 671,000) spent trying to prevent a repeat of previous riots that followed the Bulls' victories in 1991 and 1992.

'How's the city? The city ain't torn up, is it?' Michael Jordan, the Bulls' star player, asked before a crowd of thousands. To a certain extent it was not torn up: fewer acts of violence occurred than in the previous two years; in 1992, more than 1,000 people were arrested and 107 policemen injured. However, this was the first time that people have been killed as a result of the victory march.

The 'official' celebrations yesterday saw a crowd of 75,000 fans packing a lake-front park and cheering the players and Phil Jackson, their coach, who made an appearance and pledged to win a fourth title.

'They have been a great example of perseverance and hard work,' Richard Daley, the city mayor, said. 'Now I hope all Chicago celebrates in a manner that honours this great team.'

'The last three years have been very, very tough in terms of trying to duplicate what we did the previous year,' Jordan said. 'Destiny will bring us back for the fourth time.'