the last slice

Michael Jordan Says It Was Bad Pizza, Not the Flu, That Made Him Sick During the 1997 NBA Finals

Photo: Brian Bahr /Allsport

Fans of the Chicago Bulls have long wondered about Michael Jordan’s infamous “flu game” during game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. The basketball legend’s sudden illness had been attributed to a nasty bout of influenza or, depending on whom you ask, a nasty hangover. On Sunday evening, during the ninth episode of ESPN’s The Last Dance, Jordan himself reveals it was, in fact, some nasty pizza that left him so ill, he required an IV before the game.

According to Jordan, his trainer Tim Grover, and his right hand man George Koehler, the trio ordered a late-night pizza to their hotel, which arrived with four or five delivery guys in tow, presumably after someone let Jordan’s room number slip. “They’re all trying to look in, and everybody knew it was Michael,” Grover recalls. “So I take the pizza, I pay them, and I put this pizza down and I say, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this.’”

But Jordan didn’t, so he happily ate the entire pie himself, a point the trio stress in the episode multiple times. “I ate the pizza,” he declares. “All by myself. Nobody else eats the pizza. I wake up about 2:30 throwing up left and right.” Says Jordan, “So it really wasn’t the flu game. It was food poisoning.” Don’t worry, though. He still played 44 minutes and scored 38 points, including a game-winning three-pointer that brought the Bulls’ score to 90-88, despite feeling incredibly crumbly. Good to know, though someone is going to have to defend the pizza scene in Utah, because this is currently the only thing we have ever heard about it.

Michael Jordan Blames 1997 Finals Flu Game on Some Bad Pizza