Michael Jordan Explained How ‘The Flu Game’ Was Really The ‘Bad Pizza Game’

Michael Jordan’s performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals has long become infamous as “The Flu Game,” as he battled an illness that required an IV before the game and put forth a 38-point effort — including a clutch three late — in 44 minutes played (along with seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals).

There have long been theories about what really happened to cause Jordan to be in that bad of shape for the game, with some believing it was a hangover, but as he, his trainer Tim Grover, and friend George Koehler recalled in episode 9 of The Last Dance, it was food poisoning from a pizza that led to his illness. The story is something they’ve told before — as was evident by how well rehearsed it seems they all can tell it — as Grover and Koehler both recalled it seeming fishy that they had five delivery guys come to the room with the pizza.

Michael: “It’s like 10, 10:30 at night. I’m hungry.”
Tim: “No room service, Michael gets hungry. We’re calling all these different places. George and I are looking around. We find one pizza place open. One.”
George: “So he ordered pizza. And when the pizza came there was four or five guys outside the door.”
Tim: “Five guys delivering one pizza.”
George: “It’s very rare you get five delivery guys from the pizza place to bring you your pizza.”
Tim: “They’re all trying to look in, and everybody knew it was Michael. So I take the pizza, I pay them, and I put this pizza down and I say ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this.'”
Michael: “I ate the pizza. All by myself. Nobody else eats the pizza. I wake up about 2:30 throwing up left and right.”
Tim: “Three o’clock in the morning I get a call, ‘come to the room right now.’ He’s literally curled up in a ball shaking. He says, ‘man find a team doc, now.'”
Michael: “So it really wasn’t the flu game. It was food poisoning.”

There’s something incredibly funny about Jordan saying so forcefully that he ate the whole pizza and no one else. Also, why they made it clear this pizza was for Jordan, leading to that many guys coming to deliver it (and, potentially, the pizza being sabotaged) also makes little sense. Whatever the case, it led to one of the all-time great performances in NBA history, so in hindsight, that’s an important pizza — at least, if you believe that was indeed the story.