Sports Conspiracy Vol. I: The Jordan Flu Game

This is going to become a recurring segment from me on the blog. I am going to dive into some sports conspiracy theories that have made their way around the internet. Some of these, you might know, some you may have never heard of, but I hope you enjoy it. We are going to start with one of the most iconic sports performances in history, the Jordan Flu Game.

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The year was 1997, the Chicago Bulls were looking to win their second straight NBA championship and their fifth title in seven years. Their opponent was the Utah Jazz, led by John Stockton and Karl Malone, two future Hall of Fame members. The Bulls won games one and two in Chicago and were heading to Utah for games three through five. The Jazz had been waiting years to get to this series and they wouldn’t go quietly into the night, they responded by winning games three and four in Utah, setting up a pivotal game 5.

Here is where our conspiracy begins. You have probably heard the story that Jordan had the flu or was hung over for game 5. Well, that is not the case, the “conspiracy theory” is that Jordan was poisoned. Well, that is exactly what happened.

There were two scheduled off days between games 4 and 5 of the finals. The night was June 9th 1997 and after Bulls practice Michael Jordan and his personal trainer Tim Grover returned to Jordan’s hotel room located in Park City, Utah. It was shortly after 9p.m. and MJ was starving, he asked Grover to call the hotel kitchen to order some food. The kitchen closed at 9pm and nobody was there to kick the legend a late dinner. Park City, Utah wasn’t the most hustling and bustling place of all time in 1997 and there weren’t many options for food after 9p.m. Grover began calling around and finally a pizza place picked up the phone. Grover informed them that he had Michael Jordan there and he was hungry, they needed a delivery and they needed it quick.

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It was well known at the time which hotel opposing teams stayed at, especially when the Chicago Bulls were in town. The lobby was always crowded, it spilled throughout the hotel, people were itching to get a glimpse of this larger than life Bulls team. People could enter the hotel without any issue at all, it was a different time and security obviously isn’t what it is now, it was a much more simple time. Grover gave the pizza place the room number so the delivery guy could bring it right up to the room without creating a buzz at the front desk or have people over-hear who’s room this was going to.

As Jordan and Grover waited in the room, finally, a knock was at the door. Grover got up and opened the door, he was shocked at what he saw in front of him. Not one, not two, not three, not four but five guys were there to deliver the pizza. Grover grabbed the pizza and before Jordan started eating it, he told MJ that he had a bad feeling about this and maybe he should call it a night and avoid the pizza. There were a few other Bulls teammates in the room at this point and nobody else ate a slice, according to Grover. Jordan was the only one to chow down on the mysterious pizza.

A few hours later around 2a.m. Grover received a phone call to his room. He woke up from his sleep and answered the phone. It was the Bulls team doctor. He told Grover to come to Jordan’s room immediately. When Grover got there, Jordan was in the fetal position getting ill. The doctors determined it was the flu, Grover informed them that Jordan was fine a few hours ago and he ate pizza that was clearly poisoned. He told them about the group that delivered the pizza, how it seemed odd and that Jordan was the only one to eat the pizza.

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The following day, June 10th 1997. Jordan was in his hotel room, unable to get out of bed. He was getting violently ill and trying to replenish his body with fluids. He stayed in bed the entire day and night, he woke up on June 11th 1997 and still felt horrible. Still in bed, unable to get moving. Jordan informed the Bulls that he would not be at shoot around and he didn’t think he was going to be able to suit up for game 5. Three hours before tip-off Jordan shocked his coaches and teammates and arrived at the Delta Center, ready to take the floor in the crucial game.

In Jordan’s condition, it was expected that he would only be able to play limited minutes. He told Phil Jackson that he was going to give it his all. Well, in typical Jordan fashion, he played 44 minutes and scoring 37 points en route to a Bulls victory, giving them a 3-2 series lead by the score of 90-88. Two nights later on Friday, June 13th 1997, Jordan led the Bulls to their fifth NBA Championship and Jordan’s fifth NBA Finals MVP. Jordan called this game “that was probably the most difficult thing I have ever done”.

So there you have it sports fans, the first conspiracy theory to consider. Comment and let me know what you think. But here are some final things to consider. Jordan was a known partier, never got hangovers, not even in the wildest of cities, he was in Utah, not a hot bed for partying. In addition, he was feeling fine up until the point that he started eating the pizza. All signs point to a tainted pizza made or delivered by a bunch of Jazz fans who were clamoring for their first NBA Championship. Jordan would break the hearts of Jazz fans in 97 and 98 but this iconic game should be known forever as the “Jordan pizza game”.