Michael Jordan Was So Phenomenal During ‘Flu Game’ That Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan Didn’t Think He Was Ailing: ‘I Didn’t Know He’s Sick’
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan ate pizza in his hotel room the night before Game 5 of the 1997 Finals against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City and got food poisoning. He threw up all night and was so sick that his mother told him not to play in Game 5.
However, Jordan mustered up the energy to play and was so phenomenal that Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan didn’t think he was ailing.
Jerry Sloan on Michael Jordan: “First of all, I didn’t know he’s sick”
During his postgame press conference following Game 5, Sloan said he had no idea Jordan was sick. The legendary coach joked with reporters that he was the last person to find out about MJ’s illness.
“First of all, I didn’t know he’s sick,” Sloan said. “And I thought he played a great game. Did everybody else know he was sick? I guess I was the last one to know.”
The Bulls beat the Jazz by a final score of 90-88 in Game 5. Jordan not only played 44 minutes while being ill, but he also delivered a legendary performance that basketball fans will talk about forever.
Michael Jordan scored 38 points
Everyone thought Jordan was dealing with the flu in Game 5. However, in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, His Airness said he was actually suffering from food poisoning. The “Flu Game,” though, has a better ring to it than the “Food Poisoning Game.”
Jordan scored 38 points while shooting 13-of-27 from the field, 2-of-5 from beyond the arc, and 10-of-12 from the free-throw line. The 10-time scoring champion put up 15 points in the fourth quarter and hit a clutch 3-pointer with 25.0 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Bulls an 88-85 lead. After sinking the shot, Jordan fell into Scottie Pippen’s arms, creating one of the most iconic pictures in sports history.
Despite being sick, Jordan still spoke to Ahmad Rashad after Game 5, and the five-time MVP explained to his friend why he played when he probably shouldn’t have.
MJ: “It’s all about desire”
An exhausted Jordan told Rashad that desire and being the team leader were the two reasons he played in Game 5. The series was tied at 2-2, and the Bulls lost Games 3 and 4, so there was no way Black Jesus would sit out the crucial fifth game.
“It’s all about desire,” Jordan said. “You just gotta come out here and do what you gotta do. We wanted it real bad, and me as the leader, I had to come out and do my best, and hopefully, the team could rally around me and come out and make contributions. I was really tired, very weak. At halftime, I told Phil (Jackson) that use me in spurts, but I mean, I somehow found the energy.”
The Bulls and Jazz played Game 6 in Chicago two days after Game 5. Jordan dropped 39 points and dished the game-winning assist to Steve Kerr, who hit a mid-range jumper with 5.0 seconds left to clinch Chicago’s fifth championship in seven years.
The “Flu Game” will go down as one of Jordan’s best outings of all time. The six-time champion refused to let food poisoning prevent him from achieving greatness, and it’s incredible how he managed to do it.