So, quick question…
Can we still call these the ‘Flu Game’ 12s?
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As of this week, it appears these iconic pair of Jordans might be in desperate need of a rebrand.
The list of memorable moments in Michael Jordan’s career is endless. There was ‘The Shot’ over Craig Ehlo. The shoulder shrug against the Portland Trail Blazers. The push-off who are we kidding, he pushed off! against Bryon Russell. And of course, ‘The Flu Game.’
However, recent developments have put the lore of ‘The Flu Game’ in jeopardy.
In the ninth episode of The Last Dance, Jordan and his team recall what happened before Game 5 of the 1998 NBA Finals against Utah.
The story went like this: the night before the game, MJ was up late in his hotel room and got hungry. His team set out on a mission to find an open restaurant and landed on a local pizza joint. The pizza place delivered a pie and according to Jordan’s trainer Tim Grover, multiple guys arrived at the door to deliver the pizza.
Michael Jordan and Tim Grover setting the record straight on the flu game #thelastdance@SONTHoops
— Sports ON Tap Chicago (@SONTChicago) May 18, 2020
At that moment, Grover said he knew something was wrong.
Tim Grover knew pic.twitter.com/3LdWt0y8Dl
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 16, 2020
Still, Jordan proceeded to eat the pizza and a few hours later, he was throwing up in his hotel room. The next day, he was unable to hold any food down. His condition was described as ‘flu-like’ symptoms, and as we learned in the docuseries, his mother asked him not to play in Game 5.
Well, of course, he played and he played well.
Stuart Scott’s “Flu Game” highlight of MJ will always be #TheLastDancepic.twitter.com/5WNVybQktp
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 17, 2020
The performance came to be known as ‘The Flu Game,’ adding to Jordan’s already untouchable legacy.
He finished with 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in 44 minutes, and the Bulls won, 90-88.
But this week, even Grover had to back off the game’s famous moniker.
The Food Poisoning Game. https://t.co/nNQO6ewRuS
— Tim S. Grover (@ATTACKATHLETICS) May 18, 2020
Grover expanded on Michael’s condition in an interview with CBS Sports this past week.
“One hundred percent it was food poisoning, 100 percent. But obviously it just sounds better to be the ‘Flu Game’ than the ‘Food Poisoning Game.’
Michael Jordan didn’t have the flu during the ‘Flu Game,’ according to longtime trainer Tim Groverhttps://t.co/MIs7Hp5iU1
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) May 15, 2020
There you have it ‘The Flu Game’ is no more.
But wait there’s a plot twist.
Craig Fite worked at Pizza Hut in Park City, Utah, from which Jordan ordered the pizza.
Fite joined Colin Cowherd on Tuesday to discuss the actual pizza that was delivered to Jordan’s room, explaining that he was a Chicago Bulls fan and oversaw the creation of the pizza himself to ensure it wasn’t tampered with.
“It was funny because I happened to make the joke, ‘I need to take care of this … I gotta make this pizza. I don’t trust any of you guys. You’re all Jazz fans. You’ll do something to this pizza.’ So I went ahead and made the pizza … I wanted to help the Bulls there, not lose it for them or make them sick.”
“When the call came, the driver waved at me because he knew I was a Bulls fan… He said, ‘I think it’s for the Bulls.'”@CraigFite joins us on his now infamous pizza delivery for Michael Jordan prior to Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals: pic.twitter.com/rACqR5rrZL
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 19, 2020
Fite also said that only he and one other person delivered the pizza, not multiple people.
So, now that Jordan and his team think it was ‘The Food Poisoning Game,’ but the food handler has said it wasn’t food poisoning, what do we make of this situation? Is iti all folklore? Could it actually have been ‘The Flu Game’ after all?
Marcellus Wiley thinks that Jordan and his crew are telling a fairytale, just based on the circumstances of the delivery.
“I believe the pizza man … When I heard this story in real time, I immediately was thinking, ‘This doesn’t sound right.’ Five guys show up to the hotel room of Michael Jordan? What happened to all the security detail? … You mean they got by security five-deep to deliver one pizza? Stop it. That makes no sense.
Who do you believe: Jordan or the Pizza employee?
“This wasnt a flu game, this was a full game! Dude ate a large pizza solo with a bunch of drank in him, then them cigars hit. Thats a bad cocktail. Jordan lying bruh.” @MarcellusWileypic.twitter.com/n1NMmMeHGK
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) May 19, 2020
Fite corroborated Wiley’s assumption that Jordan’s mixture of vices might have had something to do with his sickness the next day.
As soon as you walk into the building you can smell the cigar smoke, Fite said of the notoriously loose-ship Bulls. And we get in on the elevator and go up to I think the second floor. As soon as that door opened it felt like you got punched in the face with cigar smoke.
FS1’s Mark Titus also has qualms with the story, but he believes it might have just been a part of Jordan’s habit of creating stories in order to keep his competitive edge.
“Maybe it was food poisoning but the story they presented, there’s no way it’s true. I refuse to believe it. The only thing that makes sense to me is that he thinks he was poisoned because as have learned, Michael Jordan is a psychopath. He comes up with ways to feel like he is slighted. So maybe he contracted the flu and had a pizza delivered to him and made it up in his brain that he was poisoned.”
Are you buying Michael Jordan’s food poisoning story?@clubtrillion has some qualms with the ‘Flu Game’ becoming the ‘Food Poisoning Game’ pic.twitter.com/dLU5lmshPT
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) May 18, 2020
Regardless of how Fite remembers the story as opposed to how Jordan and Grover remember it, MJ wasn’t at his best physically for Game 5, so much so that Jordan asked Grover to help get him on his feet for the game.
Just get me standing. I will do the rest. #TheLastDance
Michael Jordans trainer, Tim Grover, joined The Steam Room to reflect on MJs iconic flu game https://t.co/DnaKd2N9w2pic.twitter.com/PzylrEGeTF
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 16, 2020
We’re still not sure what to call this game.
Maybe, it was just another virtuoso performance by the greatest athlete of his time.