Michael Jordan Played the Legendary ‘Flu Game’ Because He Felt He Had an Obligation to His Bulls Teammates and the City of Chicago: ‘I Didn’t Wanna Give Up, No Matter How Sick I Was or How Tired I Was’
On June 11, 1997, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan played in his famous “Flu Game” against the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals. Although it’s called the “Flu Game,” Jordan was actually suffering from food poisoning after eating pizza in his hotel room the night before.
Jordan threw up all night before Game 5 and had IVs hooked up to him in the Bulls locker room. He probably shouldn’t have played versus the Jazz. However, MJ suited up for two important reasons.
Why did Michael Jordan play despite being sick?
Jordan was so weak that he didn’t speak to the media after the “Flu Game.” The next time reporters got to talk to His Airness was after Game 6 in Chicago. The five-time MVP explained to the public why he played in Game 5 despite being ill.
“I didn’t wanna give up,” Jordan said. “No matter how sick I was or how tired I was or how low on energy I was. I felt the obligation to my team, to the city of Chicago, to go out and give that extra effort.”
Not only did Jordan play 44 minutes in the “Flu Game,” but he also torched the Jazz for 38 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer off a nice pass from Scottie Pippen.
Michael Jordan had 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists
Jordan shot 13-of-27 from the field, 2-of-5 from beyond the arc, and 10-of-12 from the free-throw line in the “Flu Game.” He finished with 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals.
With the game tied at 85, Jordan hit a 3-pointer with 25.0 seconds left in regulation to give the Bulls an 88-85 lead. Chicago wound up winning by a final score of 90-88 to take a 3-2 lead in the series. Pippen, who had the game-winning assist to Jordan, spoke about Superman’s will to win after the contest.
“The effort that he gave us today was unbelievable,” Pippen said. “We really appreciate the way he stepped up and showed his leadership for our ball club.”
The Bulls and Jazz only had one day off before playing Game 6 at the United Center. Fortunately for Chicago, Jordan got over his food poisoning and was close to 100% on June 13, 1997. The 10-time scoring champion had another stellar performance in Game 6. However, he wasn’t the hero.
Steve Kerr hit the game-winner
The Bulls and Jazz were tied at 86 with 28.0 seconds left in regulation. Phil Jackson took a timeout to draw up a play for Jordan, who told Steve Kerr to be ready to shoot since he knew he would get doubled.
John Stockton left Kerr to double Jordan, who found the sharpshooter right behind the free-throw line. Kerr hit a jumper with 5.0 seconds remaining to give the Bulls a two-point lead. However, Chicago still needed one more stop to win championship No. 5.
One of the best defenders in NBA history, Pippen stole the inbounds pass from Bryon Russell and passed it ahead to Toni Kukoc, who dunked the ball at the buzzer for the Bulls’ final exclamation point. Jordan won his fifth Finals MVP after finishing the series with averages of 32.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists.
Chicago might have lost the series if Black Jesus didn’t play in Game 5. The “Flu Game” is undoubtedly one of the most iconic contests in sports history and showcased Jordan’s mental and physical toughness.