Flu or Something Else?: The Story of Michael Jordan’s “Flu” Game

In Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan went off for a game-high 38 points with what was reported as the stomach flu. But, was he sick with the stomach flu, or was he sick with something else?


By 1997, Michael Jordan had solidified his legacy as a Top 3 player of all-time. If anybody in the world doubted Jordan’s competitiveness, those doubts were put to rest in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals. The series was tied, and whichever team lost would have a serious disadvantage to win the Championship. A few minutes before the game started, there were reports saying that Jordan was sick with the stomach flu. Withstanding his 102-degree sickness, Jordan scored 38 points in 44 minutes, leading the Bulls to an important win.

In this game, Jordan may have been sick with the flu or he could have had food poisoning. Weirdly, only the food poisoning story has substantial evidence to have occurred. Jordan being sick with the flu only has one point of evidence, when before the game, Marv Albert had said Jordan was “suffering from flu-like symptoms.”

In 2012, Jordan’s teammate at the time, Ron Harper, believed that Jordan was sickened by food poisoning. In 2013, Jordan’s longtime trainer, Tim Grover, said that he was sick from a bad pizza that he ate the night before. Also, flu-symptoms last for more than one day, but Jordan was fine for Game 6, and even though the flu is very contagious no one else playing in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals was reported to be infected. The night before the game, Jordan and Grover were in the same hotel room when Jordan decided to order pizza. Usually, when someone orders pizza, only one person comes to deliver it. For some reason, the day Jordan ordered pizza 4-5 people who seemed a little over-enthusiastic came to deliver the pizza to Jordan. Keep in mind that this was all in Utah which means that the delivery people probably wanted Utah to win. Tim Grover told Jordan that he thought something was up, and that the pizza might have some poison, so he didn’t eat it. Jordan ate it though and was sick the next day.

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