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These Rumors Are Just Sick

Lakers: Kobe's illness is subject of myriad conspiracy theories, one straight out of a 'Sopranos' episode.

May 25, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Did you hear what really caused Kobe Bryant to come down with food poisoning? It was a New Jersey mob guy. It seems the Jersey mob has bet heavily that the Nets will win the NBA title.

So it was the mob that poisoned the infamous bacon cheeseburger Bryant ordered from room service in the Sacramento Hyatt the night before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals?

You don't believe it? That's the story a caller to an L.A. talk show this week swears by.

There's also a story, just as unlikely, that Bryant never even ate that cheeseburger, that he came into the hotel that night too drunk to find his room, much less order room service.

So far, no one is claiming the guy on the grassy knoll cooked the burger, but the last few days have certainly supplied enough stories for a full season of "The X-Files."

"Reporters have been calling here all week," said Jerry Westenhaver, general manager of the hotel, "trying to make this into the JFK conspiracy. They are really out of control."

Westenhaver is happy to talk about the incident. Rather than discouraging people from ordering room service at his hotel, the effect of the Bryant incident has been just the opposite, according to Westenhaver. Everybody, it seems, wants a Kobe Burger.

"We are selling hamburgers beyond what we did before," Westenhaver said. "It's the cheeseburger heard 'round the world. A local food critic came in, ordered our food and gave it three stars in his review."

The local health department has also looked into the matter, Westenhaver said, but discovered nothing amiss.

"Any time we get a food complaint, we look into it," Westenhaver said, "but there's not much to investigate."

Westenhaver says a bacon cheeseburger was definitely delivered to Bryant's room that night, but one thing left hotel officials perplexed.

"If there is a problem, it's usually not just one person [getting sick]," Westenhaver said. "We served 1,700 meals that night, including 300 hamburgers, and nobody else reported a bad reaction."

That might suggest a flu bug instead of food poisoning, but not to Laker trainer Gary Vitti, who treated Bryant.

"To me, it's almost a no-brainer," Vitti said. "He ate and, five to six hours later, he had vomiting, diarrhea and all the other symptoms."

Vitti said that at practice Sunday, hours before his bad meal, Bryant had expressed an urge for Mexican food.

Given the location of a Mexican eatery, Bryant changed his mind.

"I better not," he said. "It might mess up my stomach."

Not to mention the plans of those Jersey mob guys.

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