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Trainer on ‘Flu Game’: Michael Jordan’s pizza was poisoned

Scottie Pippen helps an ailing Michael Jordan bench after Bulls took 90-87 lead late game against Utah Jazz game five

Scottie Pippen helps an ailing Michael Jordan to the bench after the Bulls took a 90-87 lead late in the game against the Utah Jazz in game five of the NBA finals on June 11, 1997 in Salt lake City, Utah. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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It has become known as ‘‘The Flu Game,’’ but Michael Jordan’s former personal trainer wants you to know that one of the signature performances of MJ’s career had more to do with bad pizza — possibly poisoned by passionate Utah Jazz fans.

During Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals between the Bulls and the Jazz, Jordan was visibly ailing, yet scored 38 points in a 90-88 victory.

‘‘Yes, 100 percent poisoned for [that game],’’ Tim Grover recently told TrueHoop TV. ‘‘Everyone called it a ‘flu game,’ but we sat there and we were in the room, we were in Park City, Utah, up in a hotel. Room service stopped at like 9 o’clock. And he got hungry, and we really couldn’t find any other place to eat, so we ordered.

‘‘I said, ‘Hey, the only thing I could find is a pizza place.’ He said, ‘All right, order pizza.’ We had been there for a while, so everybody knows what hotel. . . . I mean, Park City [didn’t have] many hotels back then.

‘‘So we order a pizza, they come to deliver it. Five guys come to deliver this pizza. . . . I said, ‘I just got a bad feeling about this.’ Out of everybody in the room, [Jordan] was the only one that ate. Nobody else. Then, 2 o’clock in the morning, I get a call to my room. I come to the room, he’s curled up, he’s curled up in the fetal position. We’re looking at him. We’re finding the team physician at that time. And immediately I said, ‘It’s food poisoning.’ Guaranteed. Not the flu.’’

Last year, former Bulls coach Phil Jackson told ESPN Los Angeles a similar story that pointed to food poisoning.

Radio analyst Bill Wennington, who played for the Bulls from 1993 to ’99, said Thursday that the pizza was always suspected, but he hadn’t heard that it might have been a deliberate poisoning.

‘‘I heard the stories that the pizza made him sick,’’ Wennington said. ‘‘I had heard that in that past. Never that he was poisoned or anything like that, but bad pizza? Yeah, that was talked about. . . . Nothing would surprise me.’’

The Bulls clinched their fifth NBA championship in Game 6 of that series. Jordan has called the Game  5 performance one of the toughest of his career.



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