For a lot of his NBA profession, Michael Jordan appeared not solely like the very best participant on the court docket at any given time, but in addition utterly infallible.
That was solely half true forward of Recreation 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals matchup towards the Jazz, nonetheless. A visibly ailing Jordan placed on the efficiency of a lifetime in what would come to be often known as the “Flu Recreation.” It was one of many defining moments of his profession.
“The massive story right here tonight — the story regarding Michael Jordan’s bodily situation,” play-by-play commentator Marv Albert stated earlier than the sport. “That is Jordan arriving two hours in the past. He’s affected by flu-like signs.”
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Certainly, cameras confirmed Jordan as followers had by no means seen him: sweating profusely, whether or not he leaned again in his chair or bent over on the knees on the court docket. When he wasn’t enjoying (he performed 44 minutes), he chugged fluids, saved an ice pack on his neck and draped a towel over his head.
As sick as Jordan was, there was no means he wouldn’t give every part he had for this explicit recreation: The sequence was tied 2-2 with the sport in Salt Lake Metropolis. A loss would have meant the Bulls must win two straight, together with Recreation 7 again on the Jazz’s residence court docket. And so, he scored 38 factors on 13-of-27 capturing, including seven rebounds, 5 assists, three steals and a block within the 90-88 win.
Particulars of his unbelievable efficiency embrace a 17-point second-quarter explosion (which helped erase a 16-point deficit) and a go-ahead 3-pointer within the closing seconds.
The picture of Jordan collapsing into Scottie Pippen’s arms as the 2 walked off the court docket turned an indelible a part of Jordan’s legacy.
Stated Jordan after the sport (by way of NBA.com): “I virtually performed myself into passing out. I got here in and I used to be virtually dehydrated, and it was all simply to win a basketball recreation. I couldn’t breathe. My vitality stage was actually low. My mouth was actually dry. They began giving me Gatorade, and I considered IV.”
However did Jordan even have the flu?
In 2013, his private coach Tim Grover revealed what he believes to be the precise reason for Jordan’s sickness: meals poisoning.
“Sure, 100 p.c poisoned for (the ‘Flu Recreation’),” Grover stated on TrueHoop TV (by way of ESPN). “Everybody known as it a ‘Flu Recreation,’ however we sat there and we have been within the room, we have been in Park Metropolis, Utah, up in a lodge. Room service stopped at like 9 o’clock. And he acquired hungry, and we actually could not discover every other place to eat so we ordered. … I stated, ‘Hey, the one factor I may discover is a pizza place.’ He stated, ‘All proper, order pizza.’ We had been there for some time, so all people is aware of what lodge … I imply Park Metropolis (did not have) many inns again then. Everyone sort of knew the place we have been staying.
“So we order a pizza, they arrive to ship it, 5 guys come to ship this pizza. And I am simply … I take the pizza, and I inform them, I stated, ‘I acquired a foul feeling about this.’ I stated, ‘I simply acquired a foul feeling about this.’ Out of all people within the room, he was the one one which ate. No person else. … Then 2 o’clock within the morning, I get a name to my room. I come to the room, he is curled up, he is curled up within the fetal place. We’re taking a look at him. We’re discovering the workforce doctor at the moment. And instantly I stated, ‘It is meals poisoning.’ Assured. Not the flu.”
(That’s an opinion Jordan’s teammate Ron Harper shared as nicely, per Phil Jackson on this 2012 interview).
One other extra outlandish clarification for Jordan’s flu-like signs: They have been merely the signs of a hangover. That “concept” comes from Jalen Rose, who allegedly instructed that story at a university get together in Bloomington, Ind., after catching a recreation between Michigan and Indiana.
That is essentially the most unlikely of the three explanations — although, as “The Final Dance” has reminded us, Jordan wasn’t afraid to combine issues up earlier than video games. (Keep in mind when he took off to Atlantic Metropolis earlier than Recreation 2 of the 1993 Jap Convention finals along with his workforce down 1-Zero to the Knicks?)
No matter the reason for Jordan’s signs, one factor is for certain: He suffered significantly in that recreation — however not as a lot as he made the Jazz endure.