In Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz, Michael Jordan logged an impressive tally of 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one block. Chicago edged Utah 90-88 to take a commanding 3-2 lead. The Bulls finished the series in Game 6, but Game 5 stood out in that championship duel because it was Jordan's famous "Flu game."
It can be recalled that on game day, MJ wasn't feeling well, but he carried on and played. Hence, "The Flu Game" took place; the rest is history.
"[It's] Probably the most difficult thing I've ever done," Jordan said of The Flu Game. "I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game." Not just any game, though -- a Finals game."
The food poisoning game
Twenty-three years later, ESPN's 10-part docu-series "The Last Dance" brought the flu game back to prominence. As expected, old school and new school hoops fans buzzed about it because, as it turned out, the flu game had a number of alternative backstories. Among them is the story about a bad pizza.
According to Jordan's long-time trainer Tim Grover, it was the night before Game 5, and they were at a hotel in Park City, Utah, when the Bulls star "got hungry." The "room service stopped at like 9 o'clock," so they just ordered pizza from a local store nearby.
When the pizza arrived, Grover felt something was not right because "five guys" delivered it to their doorstep, which was quite unusual. Grover added that only Jordan ate the pizza, and the next thing he saw was a "curled up" MJ calling for help because he was food poisoned.
"So we order pizza. Five guys came to deliver this pizza," Grover recalled via Bleacher Report. "I take the pizza and I tell them: "I've got a bad feeling about this... I've just got a bad feeling about this."
"Out of everybody in the room, [MJ] was the only one who ate. Nobody else had it. And then 2 o'clock in the morning I get a call to my room. Come to the room. He's curled up in the fetal position. We're looking at him, finding the team physician at that time… Immediately I told him it's food poisoning. Not the flu."
Grover's revelation convinced some fans that the iconic Jordan game they have been referring to as the flu game should've been called "the food poisoning game" instead.
It should've been called the altitude sickness game
Just when everybody thought Grover's alternative version of the flu game was already bold, former Bulls physician John Hefferon also shared his version of the story this past June.
As per Hefferon, for some reason, he was never informed about any food poisoning at the time, and upon checking Jordan, he and other Bulls medical staff concluded that it was an "altitude sickness."
"I don't know that he had food poisoning," Hefferon said via Sports Injury Central. "We thought he might have had altitude sickness."
Hefferon backed his findings by pointing out that it was because "the Bulls were staying at a hotel in Park City, which has an elevation of around 7,000 feet, and playing in Salt Lake City, which is up at around 4,500 feet."
Looking back at it, Hefferon's findings make sense as the symptoms of altitude sickness and food poisoning are quite similar.
The Pizza guy's side of the story
For sure, some of you are wondering what the pizza store or the delivery guy said about the matter. Of course, the media wanted to get its hands on the pie, so they decided to hear what the pizza delivery guy had to say.
In a tell-all interview with Colin Cowherd's "The Herd" show, the man denied having anything to do with food poisoning Jordan.
"I worked at Park City, Utah, for Pizza Hut," the man recounted. "The driver picked up the phone and waved at me because he knew I was a Bulls fan and said he thought it was the Bulls from the hotel. We didn't know who the pizza was for. And I even made a joke about me having to take care of the pizza because everyone else was Jazz fans and I worried they were going to do something to it. So I made it and took it to the hotel along with the driver, hoping to meet some of the Bulls. After they announced Michael got sick, I remember getting a call from a guy at work, thanking me for trying to get Michael sick so the Jazz could win. I was like 'no way; I didn't do it.'"
At the end of the day, we have the right to pick which version of the flu game we want to believe. But one thing nobody can alter was that Jordan made history that night.