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What Was Michael Jordan’s Flu Game?

By now it is almost impossible not to have heard about the legendary Michael Jordan flu game. It was one of the most impressive performances of all-time. However, a lot of people don’t actually know the cause or how well he really played out there when talking about his stats. It brings up the question, what was Michael Jordan’s flu game exactly?

What was Michael Jordan’s flu game? Michael Jordan got terribly sick the day of June 11, 1997 when his Chicago Bulls were in Utah to face the Jazz in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. He was suffering from a lot of symptoms throughout the day and yet was still able to jog out onto the court and score 38 points on the way to a decisive win. Most human’s, including many NBA superstars, wouldn’t have even been able to reach the court yet alone dominate the game in the state Jordan was visibly in. This would become known as the “Jordan Flu Game”.

Jordan fought so hard for his team which is why they ended up emerging victorious in a huge game and ultimately winning their 5th title of the decade. The specific cause of this illness has had some controversy over the years, but was cleared up when Netflix’s Last Dance documentary shed some new light on it all.

How Did Jordan Get Sick?

According to the documentary, Jordan attributed the flu game to a certain pizza delivery guy in Utah. Jordan said that it shouldn’t really be called the flu game, but rather the food poisoning game. Team Mate Ron Harper said that he always believed it was a food issue, when he heard the news about Jordan being sick. Jordan’s personal trainer at the time, Tim Grover also went into further detail about what happened that night. He said that they ordered a pizza the night before the game, and five guys showed up at their door with the pizza in hand. Grover admitted that the whole group felt a little weird about the situation and weren’t comfortable eating the pizza. Apparently, Michael was the only one that didn’t mind and ate it anyways. A few hours later, Jordan was curled over in the bathroom and had to call the team physician to get him checked out. Whoever those pizza delivery guys are seem to be the culprits here. This situation was oddly similar to the situation Kobe Bryant would face years later in Sacramento after eating a room service burger, which also caused food poisoning before a game against the King’s. It was later claimed by Craig Fite, who had recently been hired as an assistant manager at a Pizza Hut in Park City, Utah, about 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake that he made and delivered the Pizza himself because as a Bulls fan he didn’t want any Jazz fanatics tampering with it!

What Symptoms Did He Have?

When the game was starting to kick off, reporters were obviously telling the fans everything that they knew so far regarding Jordan’s health. The initial report was that Michael was suffering from “flu-like symptoms” and had spent the entire day leading up to the game in bed. He didn’t eat anything before the game, had missed shoot around and other practices and his status was simply set at uncertain. Fast forward to the starting lineup announcements and Jordans name was called. A reporter by the name of Ahmad Rashad followed up on the previous report of his symptoms. He said that Jordan was suffering through a headache, a stomach ache and had thrown up all night. He also said that Jordan spent time in a dark room before the game while having to vomit continuously. When the game ended, everybody rushed over to Michael to ask him how he was feeling concluding the performance. He opened up to the interviewer and said that he almost passed out towards the end of the game. Jordan said that he was almost dehydrated and had struggles with his breathing. On top of that, his energy levels were at a serious low and his mouth was super dry. Michael said he was even thinking about an IV during the course of the game just to keep himself going.

What Happened in the Game?

There couldn’t be a worse time to suffer from flu-like symptoms than when Michael felt in the “flu game.” The year was 1997 and the Chicago Bulls were entering a critical Game 5 against the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. The series was tied 2-2 and the winner of this game would have a tremendous advantage moving forward. Both teams knew that well, which is why Jordan understood that he had to get out there to help his team win. Even though he felt many symptoms, Jordan started and played 44 long minutes against tough competition. He was able to drop a ridiculous 38 points during that time and found himself with the ball late in the game. There were 25 seconds left and Jordan got free and knocked down a tie-breaking three pointer that helped push the Bulls to a 90-88 victory over the Jazz. The series then shifted in favor of Chicago, who ended up pulling through in the end and winning the series. When the clocks officially hit zero, cameras caught Jordan collapsing into Scottie Pippen’s arms due to his exhaustion. He definitely deserved a break after such an amazing performance.

Story Still Has Controversy

All these years later and yet the story about his flu game still has controversy. The controversy all stems from the actual cause of the illness that fell upon him the day before the biggest game of the season. After the Last Dance documentary first aired and the pizza story was released to the public, somebody that worked for a Pizza Hut in Utah at the time claimed that he made the pizza himself. He dismissed the idea of food poisoning because he made it himself. He also said that he asked the delivery driver to take him to the hotel room because he knew Jordan was the man ordering it. Soon after, that story got refuted. Somebody else in the area spoke to Rich Eisen and claimed that he had a friend in the “actual” restaurant that the pizza came from. In this story, the owner was the one delivering the pizza to the room. This story also claims that they had delivered roughly $3,000 worth of alcohol to their place the day before the illness. These are simply considered random claims, and none have really proven to be true.