Almost 23 years ago to the day, Michael Jordan got the flu. Well, kind of.
It was June, 11, 1997, and the Chicago Bulls were playing the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The series was tied at 2-2 after 23 points and 10 rebounds from Karl Malone gave the Jazz a second straight victory in Game 4.
At that point, Utah was a perfect 10-0 in the postseason with Game 5 at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. The night before the game, Jordan and a few others decide to order a pizza. Jordan had a personal trainer named Tim Grover who was there that night. Grover felt like something was off when five guys came to deliver one pizza.
Around 2 a.m., Jordan calls Grover to come to his room. The NBA’s best player is curled up in a fetal position on his hotel room floor. The “flu,” as it was reported, was not actually the flu, but food poisoning. Jordan confirmed as much on an episode of ESPN’s Last Dance.
With Jordan ill, Bulls athletic trainers told him there was no way he could play in Game 5. For Jordan, there was just no way he could miss this game. At about 5:50 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11, 1997, Jordan rolled out of bed and headed to the Delta Center.
He would start the game, but he looked visibly weak. It showed on the court too as Utah built a commanding 36-20 lead early in the second quarter. In true Jordan fashion, he slowly began to take over. He scored 17 points in the second quarter to cut the Jazz lead to just four points at the half, 53-49.
Jordan would add 15 points in the deciding fourth quarter. After making a free throw and missing the second attempt, the Bulls got the ensuing offensive rebound and moved the ball to an open Jordan whose 3-pointer gave Chicago an 88-85 lead with just 25 seconds to play. The Jazz would never reclaim the lead and a physically exhausted Jordan collapsing into the arms of teammate Scottie Pippen is a memory etched in NBA fans’ minds forever.
Jordan’s “flu” game stat line was one for the record books – 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a blocked shot. One has to wonder what Jordan might have done if not that late-night pizza.