Maybe the biggest takeaway from the ninth episode of The Last Dance surrounds the controversy of “the flu game “– from now on, referred to as “the pizza game.” As it turned out, the myth around Jordan having flu-like symptoms and still pouring 38 in game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals vs. the Jazz was debunked. It was about food poisoning.
Let’s remind ourselves of the story once again. It’s 10:30 at night, and Jordan is hungry. He is in his hotel room with Tim Grover, personal assistant George Koehler, and two security guys. As it turned out, it all started earlier, when they didn’t consult MJ about the dinner plans.
“Earlier that night, those guys all ate dinner, and didn’t wait for Michael when they ordered.”ESPN
Other than being hungry, Michael was upset. He demanded something ordered. Being on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, with half of the city already shut down, their options were very limited. Grover and the guys stumbled on one pizza place that was still delivering in an attempt to resolve the situation.
As we’ve heard in the episode, pizza was delivered by five guys, which immediately aroused suspicion with Grover. However, we didn’t get to know how Michael made sure he would eat the pizza by himself. The director of the documentary Jason Hehir sheds light on the story.
“When the pizza shows up, Michael says, ‘everybody do not touch this pizza, this is mine. You didn’t wait for me, don’t touch this.’ So he spits on the pizza.”Jason Hehir, ESPN
You’ve read it right! Michael Jordan spat on the pizza to make sure nobody else would eat it. What’s even more disturbing is the fact that this wasn’t the only time Jordan did it to make sure the food is only his.
“Back when they used to shoot a lot of commercials, Jordan’s security team would wait for him in his trailer while he was on set. A woman named Linda cooked Michael’s meals, and he loved cinnamon rolls. She’d bake a tray and bring it to him. When it came time to film, he’d see the guards eyeing the cinnamon rolls, and he’d walk over and spit on each one to make sure nobody took his food.”Wright Thompson, ESPN
That’s some next-level type of stuff. Imagine to which extent Michael didn’t want to share the food that he would spit on it. Imagine the level of possessiveness one needs to have to go to such extremes.
As funny as the story sounds, I think there is another layer to it. I think Michael’s ego was so hurt because he wasn’t consulted about the dinner that he made the pizza-eating into a competition. Well, not a competition exactly, since he made it into his private property. Jordan converted the pizza into his means of domination. Something he had full control of for a simple reason he wasn’t involved in dinner consultations.
There’s something intimidating about a person who would do pretty much anything to be dominant. That’s why his teammates feared him. Jordan didn’t care. If he felt challenged or betrayed in any way, his inner spite would’ve been awakened.
It’s the same spite that has been awakened countless times on the basketball floor. It’s also the same type of possessiveness Jordan had in the NBA. If he felt like he deserved something, he would do anything to get it. That was the case in the league – he felt like he earned all the titles and accolades, having worked the hardest and being the best, so he didn’t care how he got it. It’s the same with pizza – his ego was hurt, so he spat on it. Kind of disgusting. Understandable though.