Michael Jordan’s “flu” game is to basketball what the Trojan Horse is to Western civilization: a story of legendary importance and dubious details. (Did Aristotle actually jump out of an enormous hollow horse before defeating the Persians in a juggling competition? We’ll probably never really know.) And recent revelations have once again raised the subject of why Jordan looked so near-death as he poured in 38 points to help beat the Utah Jazz by two in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. Here’s a roundup of the going theories.
By all accounts, the day of Game 5, Jordan was physically an absolute mess. According to ESPN, Bulls doctors diagnosed him with either food poisoning or an intestinal stomach virus, and Jordan claimed to be so sick that he felt like he was going to die. He lost several pounds that day; he could barely sit up on the bench; but in the second and fourth quarters, he scored 17 and 15 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer, which gave him 38 total and won the game for Chicago.
Ron Harper, a teammate of Jordan’s at the time, claims he was sick because of bad pizza.
3. He had food poisoning because that pizza was POISONED in a SALT LAKE CONSPIRACY MOST FOUL.
Just this week we’ve learned that that story about the pizza might be a little more complicated than previously thought. From former Jordan/Oprah trainer Tim Grover:
So we order a pizza, they come to deliver it, five guys come to deliver this pizza. And I’m just … I take the pizza, and I tell them, I said, ‘I got a bad feeling about this.’ I said, ‘I just got a bad feeling about this.’ Out of everybody in the room, [Jordan] was the only one that ate. Nobody else … then 2 o’clock in the morning, I get a call to my room. I come to the room, he’s curled up, he’s curled up in the fetal position. We’re looking at him. We’re finding the team physician at that time. And immediately I said, ‘It’s food poisoning.’ Guaranteed. Not the flu.
So, a bunch of Utah pizza dudes maybe poisoned Michael Jordan.
Jalen Rose allegedly told a bunch of kids at the Indiana University in February that he thought Jordan was massively hungover, not sick. I mean: this is POSSIBLE — certainly wouldn’t be the first time that an athlete had a near-death hangover during a major sporting event — but the fact that Jordan had major gastrointestinal issues and a fever that could melt steel indicates something a little more serious than having taken too many shots of whatever the hell weird-ass, ostentatiously-expensive alcohol Michael Jordan probably drank at that time in his life.
5. He faked it for gambling purposes.
Rumors of gambling debts has dogged Jordan his entire career; hell, some people think that the whole reason he took that weird baseball detour was because David Stern forced him to as punishment for his gambling. Now, this idea doesn’t make any sense, but that’s not going to keep me from sharing it: MAYBE MJ faked the flu as some sort of device related to wagers he made on the game. What would these wagers be? I don’t know. How would the flu have played into it? I DON’T KNOW. I also don’t know what Will Smith has to do with gambling. But still, this is probably what happened.
OK, I’ll admit that now we’re getting into the realm of conjecture. But if Jordan’s body was fighting off the invasion of a demonic spirit, it would explain his convulsions and internal strife. Based on what we’re told about the game itself, and the problems Jordan was facing in terms of substances leaving his body, it does kind of sound like The Exorcist already.
The flu game never actually happened. In fact, Michael Jordan is only a figment of your imagination. If all possible worlds truly exist, then many of them lack the flu game AND Jordan, and the whole event is just leakage from one universe into another.