No one tells Michael Jordan when he can or can’t play a basketball game.
Therefore, on June 11, 1997, despite warnings from his mother, Deloris Jordan, and team officials, a Sick Jordan took to the field for Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz.
Everyone was aware of MJ’s condition that night, except for Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who revealed during the post-match press conference that he didn’t. no knowledge of the physical condition of his most dangerous opponent.
Jordan recorded 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in what has been dubbed the “flu game”, pulling the Bulls to the top of a series they would win in Game 6.
“It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done,” Jordan said after the game.
The legend surrounding the game has changed over the next 24 years, but continues to shape the way NBA players and fans think of Jordan and the level of dedication a player can have for their sport.
In 2013, the story of Game 5 of 1997 began to change thanks to two claims: one from former NBA player Jalen Rose and the second from former Jordan personal trainer Tim Grover. Neither fully explains what happened – or how – that summer night.
Rose claimed Jordan had a hangover. Grover’s claim that Jordan was suffering from food poisoning that night had already been hinted at as a possibility last year.
“Five guys came over to deliver the pizza,” Grover said in the interview. “I take the pizza and say, ‘I have a bad feeling about it … I just have a bad feeling about it.’ ”
Grover’s story was brought up again in 2020 when Episode 9 of “The Last Dance” airs on ESPN, both by Grover and George Koehler, Jordan’s personal assistant and close friend. While not explicitly stated, there is a clear implication of malpractice.
“It’s very rare that you have five delivery people from the pizzeria to bring you your pizza,” Koehler said.
Jordan agrees it was food poisoning, making “Flu Game” a misnomer. But none of the names that were launched on social media last year – “Food Poinsoning Game”, “Food Game”, “Pizza Game” – will ever come out the same.
Shortly after “The Last Dance” aired, Craig Fite, a former Park City Pizza Hut employee, who claims to have delivered MJ’s pizza late on the night of June 11, refuted Grover’s claim that five men delivered the pizza.
Fite, a Bulls fan working among many Jazz supporters, said pizza “hardly ever left” his sight until it reached Jordan’s door.
The Jazz have a chance to make an appearance in the NBA Finals this year for the first time since 1998, when they also lost to the Bulls. With Jazz leading their 2-0 Western Conference semi-finals streak against the Los Angeles Clippers after a 117-111 victory Thursday night, Utah is two wins from a berth in the final.
If they do, the world will surely once again remember the 1997 series, the “Flu Game” and perhaps further proof of a mystery that may never be truly solved. .