During his legendary playing career, Michael Jordan played through several injuries, and one of his most iconic games took place while he dealt with food poisoning.
Many players can have solid performances while playing injured and gut it out for their team. However, Jordan always found a way to take his game to an elite level when he wasn’t 100% and somehow played better than healthy players.
Michael Jordan scored 38 points while battling food poisoning
The night before Game 5, Jordan ate a box of pizza in his hotel room and got food poisoning. In the Last Dance docuseries, he revealed that the famous “flu game” was actually the “food poisoning” game.
Jordan vomited all night before Game 5 and had an IV hooked up to him prior to tip-off. It didn’t look good for him or the Bulls.
However, in classic Jordan fashion, the five-time MVP played 44 minutes and scored 38 points while shooting 13-of-27 from the field. The Bulls won by a final score of 90-88 to take a 3-2 series lead heading back to Chicago, where they wrapped up the series in Game 6.
Everyone was curious about how Jordan mustered up the energy to dominate the Jazz while battling food poisoning. It turns out he prepared for situations like Game 5 long before he became a champion.
Michael Jordan’s concentration level was off the charts
During the first round of the 1988 playoffs, Jordan and the Bulls faced the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before Game 5, MJ did a Q&A session with Bulls fans, and a kid in the audience asked him how he could play so well despite being hurt.
Jordan, who dealt with a back injury against the Cavs, said his secret was training his mind to focus on the game and not pay attention to his injury or sickness.
“I think that my solution to that is is that when I go out and play, especially when I’m sick or hurt, I try not to think about the injury or my sickness,” Jordan said. “I try to think about the job that I have to do, and sometimes that helps my concentration level, and I play a lot better. I don’t know why. I wish I could be sick every day.”
The only thing Jordan was focused on during games was winning. He wasn’t going to let a sprained ankle, sore knee, or sickness get in the way of his goal.
MJ’s focus helped him win six titles in eight years
After finally getting past the Detroit Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan led the Bulls to six championships in an eight-year span. Chicago defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, and Jazz (twice) in the Finals.
Jordan not only won all six Finals MVPs, but he never had to play in a Game 7. The 14-time All-Star was a professional closer and always came through in the clutch thanks to his intense focus and flawless basketball skills.