“Kobe Bryant was once poisoned by the New Jersey Mob!”: When the Black Mamba emulated Michael Jordan with his own flu game

Joe Viju
|Published April 15, 2022

LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant once was allegedly poisoned by the New Jersey Mob ahead of the 2002 NBA finals against the New Jersey Nets.

The resemblance between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan is nothing short of uncanny. Both of them were 6’6, and two of the best shooting guards the game has ever seen. Both players were prolific scorers, having an unstoppable mid-range game and high-flying athleticism. Moreover, took great pride in their ability on the defensive end, as Kobe had 12 All-defensive selections to Michael’s nine.

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Above everything, MJ and Kobe shared a competitive drive and hunger rarely ever seen. In fact, Kobe and MJ were similar in terms of career trajectories as well, as the duo ended their illustrious careers with the 5 and 6 rings respectively. They were so alike, so much so that they even shared a similar experience during the Finals, when both players suffered food poisoning ahead of a big game.

While Jordan’s flu game is well documented, a lesser-known story is the one where the Black Mamba was allegedly poisoned. So, what exactly happened? Read on to find out.

Also Read: “It was food poisoning and not the flu”: Tim Grover reveals the truth behind Michael Jordan’s infamous 1997 Finals “Flu Game”

Kobe Bryant has food poisoning before the 2002 NBA finals.

Kobe Bryant three-peated along with Shaquille O’Neal in 2002 following their victory against the New Jersey Nets in just 4 games. However, it wasn’t easy, as Kobe had his own share of rivals during the finals run, both on and off the court. In fact, a New Jersey mob ‘allegedly’ tried to give the Black Mamba food poisoning right before the finals.

The rumor started making the rounds after an anonymous caller revealed the story on a LA talk show. In a 2002 article shared by Reporter Darren Rovell, it talked about how Bryant ate a bacon cheeseburger at a Sacramento Hyatt, which was allegedly poisoned. He further mentioned that the health department looked into the issue, but couldn’t find any evidence of the same.

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In fact, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti even accused the hotel of poisoning the food on purpose. He goes on to say –

“Kobe told me he started feeling sick around 1 a.m. He didn’t call me until around 3. By that time, his abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea was out of control. The cramping was so bad, he was curled up like a shrimp.”

Vitti said that Kobe Bryant actually wanted to eat Mexican but ended up canceling the plan. Moreover, he added that surely the New Jersey mob was behind the poisoned burger. While no evidence was found, it was a wild story at the time. If it was a planned attempt, they failed miserably as Kobe dominated the Nets in the NBA finals.

Also Read: “Michael Jordan didn’t get sick of my pizza, I made it myself!”: When a Utah Pizza Hut assistant manager came forward to shut down MJ’s trainer claims for the Flu Game

Kobe Bryant has his own ‘Flu Game’.

We know MJ’s iconic flu game, where he dropped 38 points against the Utah Jazz. While Kobe didn’t have the iconic game as His Airness did, he still overcome the food poisoning and showed up in the NBA finals. In game 1, the Black Mamba had 22 points, 6 assists, and 3 boards.

Despite the 5x NBA champion having an average game 1, he was still an elite player in that series. The Black Mamba averaged 26.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists during the finals.

Despite his impressive displays, the 2002 NBA finals MVP went to Shaquille O’Neal, as the Lakers duo swept the Nets in just 4 games. If someone did try to food poison the Black Mamba, it certainly did not work, and he made it known, in true Kobe fashion.

Also Read: “Similar to Kobe Bryant? Stop it, nobody is even close!”: Shaquille O’Neal rubbishes comparisons to the Black Mamba 

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