One of the most iconic images from the Bulls dynasty’s run in the 90s was that of Scottie Pippen helping Michael Jordan off the floor in 1997.
It so happened that the Bulls were in Salt Lake City for the final game of their away stand. The 1997 NBA Finals were at their peak, and the Bulls were tied 2-2 with Utah for the series.
A make-or-break affair for both teams, the Bulls sorely needed MJ to come up big in this decisive game. They found to their cost, however, that the world’s best player was down with flu-like symptoms.
MJ played through those symptoms, putting the Bulls on his back offensively. They struggled to get buckets without him, so he played over 40 minutes while barely able to sit during team timeouts. But get the W Michael definitely did.
Tim Grover narrates how Michael Jordan ended up ill before Game 5
The Bulls released ‘flu-like symptoms’ as the official assessment for Jordan ahead of the game. But the team management knew that what really had transpired was a case of food poisoning.
Jordan’s personal trainer Tim Grover was present with the team all through the Finals run. In his words, Jordan definitely suffered from this due to some pizza he’d ordered the night before:
“So we order a pizza, they come to deliver it, five guys come to deliver this pizza. And I’m just … I take the pizza, and I tell them, I said, ‘I got a bad feeling about this.'”
“I said, ‘I just got a bad feeling about this.’ Out of everybody in the room, he 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.”
Scottie Pippen carried MJ off the court after his magnificent Flu Game
The entire game was a defensive slugfest, if less so than Game 4, which had finished 78-73 in favor of the Jazz. Jordan converted 13 of his 27 field goal attempts on the night and made 10 of his 12 free throws. His 38 points proved to be the difference between the two sides.
As mentioned before, there were times when Jordan looked unable to even get up off his chair. It seemed like he was playing on through sheer willpower, cooling his head with ice and cold water.
As Jordan cut an exhausted figure following the game, Pippen helped him off the floor. Years later, Scottie would make light of the whole scenario:
“It was easy. He carried me for like 11 seasons. It was great. You know me and Michael, we have a special bond. We’ve been together for so long.”