TSL NBA Finals Throwback Attack: The Flu Game

June 11, 1997 – You've no doubt had the flu, and you know the best that you can do is crawl up to the couch and hide under a blanket until you're strong enough to use the remote to switch the channel from a reality show to ESPN. That's how Michael Jordan felt in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.

As the game began, Michael was dragging himself up and down the court at what looked like 65 percent of his normal speed. He was so dehydrated and fatigued that he was certain he was about to pass out. Halfway through the quarter during a break in play, Jordan bends over to rest, pulling on his shorts, closes his eyes and nearly falls over. He had no energy whatsoever.

Essentially useless in the first quarter, Michael would watch the Jazz take a 16-point lead; all of a sudden, something clicked. He would begin to play harder, run faster, and make shots as if nothing was wrong. Jordan would score 17 in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to four. But after halftime, nausea and fatigue would start to set in, dragging him down, rendering him virtually useless again.

But early in the fourth quarter, when the Jazz went up 77-69, Jordan somehow turns it on again, leading a 10-0 run that puts Chicago back on top. He would go on to score 38 points in the game while it seemed the rest of the Bulls sleepwalked through it. MJ racked up 15 of his team's 23 points in the fourth quarter; including the ones that put the Bulls in the lead to stay. Final score: Chicago 90, Utah 88.  

Jordan, who played 23 of 24 minutes in the first half and 21 of 24 minutes in the second, doubled over, collapsing from emotion and exhaustion.

"That was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done," he would say after the game. "I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game. If we had lost, I would have been devastated." 

It was later reported by Michael's trainer, Tim Grover, that he did not actually have the flu but was a victim of food poisoning from bad pizza.

But no matter the diagnosis, the outcome was all that mattered to him.



Back to top