Michael Jordan’s ‘flu game’ is still unforgettable 20 years later
There is no shortage of unforgettable moments from Michael Jordan’s career, but one of the most indelible images occurred 20 years ago today – Jordan being helped to the bench by teammate Scottie Pippen.
It would come to be known as the “flu game”, and just the mention of it likely leaves Utah Jazz fans sick to their stomachs. With the NBA Finals tied at 2-2 and the Chicago Bulls seeking their fifth title, play-by-play commentator Marv Albert let viewers know before the game that Jordan was suffering from “flu-like symptoms” – a term that has grown in lore since this performance.
Jordan appeared lethargic from the start of the game as the Jazz built a 16-point lead in the first quarter. But as Utah appeared to take control of a pivotal Game 5, Jordan responded by scoring 17 points in the second quarter despite showing obvious fatigue, slumping over with his hands on his knees on the floor. He appeared even worse on the bench, where trainers gave him ice packs and fluids.
Jordan battled through the symptoms and finished with 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Bulls held on to a 90-88 win and eventually took the series in six games. But as great as Jordan was that day, many wondered what caused him to feel so ill.
Tim Grover, Jordan’s trainer at the time, released a book in 2013 titled “Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable” and in it he said that Jordan wasn't suffering from the flu but rather food poisoning.
We were in Park City, Utah, up in a hotel. Room service stopped at like nine o'clock. He got hungry and we really couldn't find any other place to eat. So we said eh, the only thing I can find is a pizza place. So we says all right, order pizza.
We had been there for a while. Everybody knew what hotel. Park City was not many hotels back then. So everyone kind of knew where we were staying.
So we order pizza.
Five guys came to deliver this pizza.
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.
Flu or food poisoning, it doesn't take away from Jordan's performance, which was another chapter in his almost mythical career.