This day in Chicago Bulls history: Michael Jordan Flu Game

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

On this day in NBA and Chicago Bulls history, Michael Jordan battled the flu and had one of the NBA’s greatest all-time performances in the 1997 finals.

In 1997, the Utah Jazz was in their first NBA Finals, series was tied 2-2 after winning games 3 and 4 in Utah, and Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in town for Game 5; the most important game in Jazz history.

Jordan ordered a pizza around 2 a.m. the morning of the game because the Utah hotel the Bulls were staying at did not have room service. Before he knows it he’s calling the team Tim Grover after lying in the fetal position, sweating, and throwing up.

Grover said multiple people delivered the pizza to MJ and he still decided to eat it after strangely thinking why is more than one guy delivering a pizza this late.

The five-time NBA MVP ended up suffering from severe dehydration and flu-like symptoms, sleeping through most of the day, getting out of bed at 5:50 p.m. and showing up to the arena with less than one-hour until the 7 p.m. tip-off time.

What some thought was food poising, others suggested he was hungover, but it didn’t matter what Jordan had or was because he was on a mission.

The performance was one of a lifetime, as he posted 38 points in 44 minutes on 13-of-27 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one block.

You can watch Jordan’s flu game highlights from the late-great Stuart Scott and ESPN below.

“Probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Jordan said in postgame interview ended. “I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game.”

Jordan had 15 points alone in the fourth quarter and was deemed a hero by fans, teammates and head coach Phil Jackson after winning closely 90-88.

In the televised post-game interview with Ahmad Rashād, Jordan said, “It’s desire. You got to do what you gotta do. I wanted it real bad, and being the leader, I had to come out and do my best.”

The Bulls finished the regular season with the leagues best record at 69-13 after making it to the All-Star break with an amazing 42-6 record. Jordan went on to win his final and sixth regular season MVP award.

The Bulls were the number one seed and swept the Washington Bullets in the first round, knocked off the Atlanta Hawks in five games during the second round, and beat the Miami Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

After going up 3-2 post flu game, the Bulls went back to Chicago and finished off Utah in Game 6.

MJ had another dominating performance of 39 points, 11 rebounds, four assists in a 90-86 victory to claim their third-straight NBA Championship and Jordan’s fifth Finals MVP.

MJ retired following the end of the 1997-98 season. The Bulls and Jazz faced each other again in the 1998 Finals and Chicago won 4-2 to finish off their second three-peat.

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MJ later came back for the Washington Wizards on Sep. 25, 2001. He donated his entire salary to relief efforts for victims of the 9/11 attacks and after a couple of injury-plagued seasons with the Wizards; Jordan played his final NBA game on April 16, 2003, in Philadelphia.