Kobe Bryant won his third straight title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 when they defeated the New Jersey Nets. The Lakers formed a dynasty during those years, and Bryant was emerging as one of the best in the NBA.
Before the 2002 NBA Finals, there were reports that someone tried to poison Bryant’s food so he wouldn’t be able to play in a game or two against the Nets.
Kobe Bryant’s 2001-02 season
Bryant played in all 82 regular-season games and started all of them as well. He averaged 25.2 points, 5.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds during the season. He finished second on the team in scoring behind Shaquille O’Neal, who averaged 27.2 points playing in 67 games. Bryant was the MVP of the all-star game that season and was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career.
Bryant helped lead the Lakers to a 58-24 record, and they were favorites to defend their NBA title. That season Bryant became the team’s go-to guy more, especially when O’Neal missed some time due to injury. Bryant accepted that role and did what he needed to do to put his team in the best position possible to win games. He had that winning mentality, and that rubbed off on his teammates.
Going into the playoffs, the Lakers had no issues getting past the first two rounds. The Lakers faced a test in the Western Conference Finals going up against the Sacramento Kings. The Kings and Lakers developed a rivalry during those years, and both teams always battled it out. The Kings came into the playoffs as the top seed while the Lakers were the No. 3 seed. That series was a battle as the Lakers defeated the Kings in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals.
Did the New Jersey mob try to food poison Kobe Bryant?
There were reports that someone tried to poison Bryant’s food before the NBA finals against the Nets. In a 2002 article shared by Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell, it talked about how Bryant ate a bacon cheeseburger at a Sacramento Hyatt. Rovell also spoke about how the local health department looked into the issue but could not find anything.
Gary Vitti, who was the Lakers trainer, believed that there was poison in the burger that Bryant ate. He said that Bryant started vomiting and had diarrhea for five-six hours after he ate the burger. That’s not likely to happen after you eat a burger. Vitti also said that he believed someone from the New Jersey mob was behind everything. No one was able to find any more information about if the burger was poisoned or not, but that was not going to stop Bryant from playing his game.
Kobe Bryant’s performance in the 2002 NBA Finals
Bryant and the Lakers wasted no time with the Nets during the finals. The Lakers swept the Nets 4-0 to win its third straight championship. That was the first time a team won three consecutive NBA championships since the Chicago Bulls did it from 1996 to 1998.
Bryant played like an elite player that series. He averaged 27.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists during the finals. If someone did try to food poison Bryant, it certainly did not work, and he made it known.