The “Food Poisoning Game” doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
But according to longtime trainer Tim Grover, that’s what Michael Jordan’s epic performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals should’ve have been known as instead of the “Flu Game.”
An under-the-weather Jordan, fighting off what was described then as “flu-like symptoms,” scored 38 points, added seven rebounds, five assists and drilled the game-winning shot in a dramatic 90-88 victory that gave the Bulls a 3-2 series lead over the Jazz.
It figured to be a prominent part of “The Last Dance” finale Sunday night on ESPN, though Grover believes Jordan didn’t have the flu, he told Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast.
“One hundred percent it was food poisoning, 100 percent,” Grover said. “But obviously it just sounds better to be the ‘Flu Game’ than the ‘Food Poisoning Game.’ ”
Word had gotten out where the Bulls were staying in Salt Lake City and five delivery people came with pizzas. A hungry Jordan ate a few slices before going to bed. Nobody else, according to Grover, touched the food.
“Then, about 3 o’clock in the morning, I get a call to my room that just says, ‘Hey, man, come to MJ’s room’ and he’s literally curled up in the fetal position,” Grover said. “I’ve not known any flu that can hit you that fast, but I know how quick food poisoning can hit you.”
It wouldn’t stop Jordan from playing 44 minutes, delivering throughout the gutsy performance. The enduring image of that night is Scottie Pippen basically carrying a weak Jordan back to the bench in the final seconds. Most thought it was the flu that has sapped him. But apparently, it was not.
“That’s my story, that’s what I observed,” Grover said. “I was in the room when all this was going on, so if anybody had a better look than I did I’d like to see who that person was because they definitely weren’t there.”