When did the Michael Jordan 'flu game' happen? Taking a closer look at the NBA icon's legendary game against Utah Jazz

MJ's flu game - Image credits: nba.com

Michael Jordan spent 15 seasons in the NBA. He won six championships, six Finals MVP awards and five regular-season MVPs in that span. But it wasn’t just the win that led fans to gravitate towards him – Jordan put on a show every time he stepped on the court. Be it the Chicago Bulls’ fans or the fans in opposing arenas, everyone got their money’s worth.

While Michael Jordan might have considered each night to be a "going through the motions" night, one was completely different. It was so different that it got coined as the ’Michael Jordan flu game.’

Back then, it was understood that Jordan was boiling up before Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. But it was later revealed to be a food poisoning episode. However, the focus remains on the kind of performance he puts up in those conditions.

Michael Jordan’s ‘flu game’ – taking a closer look

With the 1997 NBA Finals tied at two games apiece, the Chicago Bulls were in Salt Laker City to take on the Utah Jazz on June 11th, 1997. Prior to the start of Game 5 it was announced that Michael Jordan was suffering from flu-like symptoms and did not meet the media. Instead, he met with coach Phil Jackson and decided to play despite feeling like “crap.”

Michael Jordan did not miss a beat on the floor as he dropped 38 points in 44 minutes, scoring an efficient 48.1% from the field. Although the scoring came in bunches, Jordan contributed to other areas as well. He racked up seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Scottie Pippen played 45 minutes as was the only player with more minutes than Jordan.

There was no stopping Michael Jordan that night, as he showed great determination despite his bodily condition. He even made a late three-pointer when the game was tied at 85, helping the Bulls go ahead with 25 seconds left on the clock.

The Bulls wrapped up the game with a 90-88 win and went on to win Game 6 at home, securing their fifth title with Jordan.

The truth regarding the game and Jordan’s condition was revealed in 2013 by Jordan's former personal trainer Tim Grover on TrueHoop TV. Grover recollected how a band of five delivery guys came to deliver a pizza Jordan ordered the night before the game.

“Out of everybody in the room, he [Jordan] was the only one that ate. Nobody else... then 3 o'clock in the morning, I get a call to my room.”
“I come to the room, he's curled up, he's curled up in the fetal position. We're looking at him. We're finding the team physician at that time. And immediately I said, 'It's food poisoning.' Guaranteed. Not the flu.” Grover said.

Jordan even confirmed that it was food poisoning, when he spoke about the incident in the ninth episode of his documentary “The Last Dance.” However, the ‘flu game’ has a better ring to it.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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