Michael Jordan’s Reveals Legendary ‘Flu-Game’ was actually ‘Food Poisoning Game”
ESPN’s 10-hour documentary, The Last Dance, highlights some of the most iconic moments in Michael Jordan’s career. On Sunday, May 17, 2020, in the ninth episode of the series, Michael Jordan reveals to the reporter that perhaps his most famous game, commonly referred to as the ‘Flu-Game’, was actually a ‘Food-Poisoning Game’.
In the interview, Michael Jordan explains the details which led his illness during the infamous Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz. According to Michael Jordan, Time Grover, his personal trainer, and his best friend, George Koehler, were all “hanging out” in his hotel room the night before the game. They were unable to order room service so they decided to order a pizza from a restaurant in Park City, outside of Salt Lake City. Jordan’s trainer explains that when the pizza had arrived and he went to open the door, he found five people outside. Thinking this was strange, Grover says he “put this pizza down, and said, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” It turns out, at least anecdotally,* he was right. The only one of the group who ate the pizza, Michael Jordan, was up at 2:30 AM “throwing up left and right.”
Jordan continued to experience intense symptoms typical of food poisoning like stomach cramps, fever, and vomiting. Bill Wennington, the Bulls former center and Jordan’s current teammate said, “He had an IV hooked up to him, and he was chalky-white”. When the head coach Phil Jackson asked Jordan what he wanted to do, he responded that he was determined to play, even just to serve as a “decoy”.
Michael Jordan was anything but a decoy during Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Jazz. Jordan played 44 minutes during which he made five assists, three steals, scored a leading 38 points, and made the winning three-pointer in the last thirty seconds of the game.
Despite the adverse effects of the contaminated pizza, Michael Jordan’s performance during Game 5 raised the Bulls to a 3-2 standing going into Game 6, after which the team took home their fifth NBA championship in seven years.
* According to national food poisoning lawyer Ron Simon, there is insufficient evidence from the details provided in the mini-series to say in any definitive manner that the pizza from a Park City location was to blame. While many people do get sick within hours of consuming food, others are sickened days or even weeks afterwards, depending on the pathogen, complicating trace-back efforts. According to Simon, “the first thing is to isolate the pathogen through proper testing and preserve suspect food for analysis. The second thing is to get the local health agency involved.” While the national food poisoning law firm of Ron Simon & Associates handles these types of food poisoning cases on a daily basis, it is not clear if these steps ere followed in the case of Michael Jordan leading up to the famous “flu game.” The case may also have been due to norovirus, which is often acquired by touching dirty surfaces prior to consuming food with bare hands.