When Michael Jordan torched the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, he apparently wasn't suffering from the flu at all.
You know the game I'm referring to. With the series tied 2-2, Jordan put up 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists, leading the Chicago Bulls to victory and paving the way for him to procure his fifth championship ring.
We've all spent hours reenacting Jordan's performance in our driveways. His ability to deliver under such physical duress was awe-inspiring. Barely able to hold his own head up, "His Airness" produced one of the greatest single-game performances in NBA Finals history.
As it turns out, though, Jordan's legendary display might not have come while he was dogged by the flu, or even the common cold. According to his trainer, Tim Grover, it came while he was persevering through the ill effects of some bad pizza (via Henry Abbott of ESPN.com):
The real truth, Grover says, is that Jordan was poisoned.
"100 percent," Grover says on TrueHoop TV. "He was poisoned for the 'flu game.' Everyone called it a flu game, but we sat there. We were in the room." Grover explains:
We were in Park City, Utah, up in a hotel. Room service stopped at like nine o'clock. He got hungry and we really couldn't find any other place to eat. So we said eh, the only thing I can find is a pizza place. So we says all right, order pizza.
We had been there for a while. Everybody knew what hotel. Park City was not many hotels back then. So everyone kind of knew where we were staying.
So we order pizza. Five guys came to deliver this pizza. I take the pizza and I tell them: "I've got a bad feeling about this. ... I've just got a bad feeling about this."
Out of everybody in the room, [MJ] was the only one who ate. Nobody else had it. And then 2 o'clock in the morning I get a call to my room. Come to the room. He's curled up in the fetal position. We're looking at him, finding the team physician at that time.
Immediately I told him it's food poisoning. Not the flu.
There you have it. Jordan and the Bulls' championship aspirations might not have been thwarted by his own immune system, but by some spoiled cheese or a moldy crust.
The first logical question that bears asking is why it took so long for this to come out. It's not like the perception of the game would have changed much. Food poisoning is no joke.
Of course, admitting that would have opened the floodgates for any and all conspiracy theories.
Grover acknowledges that "everybody" knew what hotel they were staying at. Could this have then been a malicious ploy by a clan of deranged Jazz fans? We all know how maniacal the Salt Lake City faithful can be (kidding).
Aside from that, the most meticulous of pundits would have been asking about Jordan's diet. He's scarfing down a late-night pizza the night before Game 5 of the NBA Finals? Where were his priorities?
If this somehow taints your general impression of Jordan, remember, it could have been worse.
Jalen Rose, for one, believes that MJ's disposition was the result of a hangover. I don't know about you, but I'll take food poisoning over a late-night bender. A booze-ridden Jordan would have effectively corrupted this memory.
Food poisoning, the flu, a hangover—it doesn't matter. What Jordan did in that game was incredible. Nothing will ever change that.
So remember "The Flu Game" for what it is—a stunning showcase of heroics.
And don't forget that you should never indulge on a pizza delivered by five suspicious characters in the middle of the night.