Mind over Matter: The Flu Game

Michael Jordan gave basketball fans countless legendary performances. The “Flu Game” might be his most inspiring though as Jordan truly left it all on the court – his sheer will overcoming even his own body. Enjoy this trip back in time as we re-watched the game.

June 11, 1997, Salt Lake City: Game 5 of the NBA Finals with the Utah Jazz and reigning champions Chicago Bulls deadlocked 2-2. Utah took Games 3 and 4, allowing only 73 points in Game 4 to even the series after Chicago won the first two games at home.

Utah – led by league MVP Karl Malone – were hoping to hand Chicago their third straight loss – something that Jordan hadn’t experienced since the beginning of the 1990-91 season.

As if there wasn’t enough drama already, NBC started its broadcast with an update on Jordan’s status, saying he was suffering from “flu-like symptoms”.

The night before, Jordan had ordered a pizza at the hotel and spent the rest of the night and early morning throwing up with what Jordan’s personal trainer Tim Glover later said was food poisoning.

Jordan did not participate in shoot-around and Coach Phil Jackson did not want him to play, but Jordan wanted to try. And his legendary status grew with a performance for the ages.

The Game

1st quarter, 10:37 on the clock: Jumpshot Jordan – 2-2
Jordan’s first shot goes in but doesn’t count as Scottie Pippen committed an offensive foul away from the ball. But his second jumper does count – fighting heavy legs on his way back for defense.

1st quarter, 7:07, jump shot, Jordan – 7-4 Utah
Turnovers and misses pile up between Jordan’s baskets – his second a line-drive jumper – and the Bulls offense doesn’t look like the juggernaut that won 69 regular season games.

1st quarter, 0:01, layup, Malone, 29-16 Utah
The Bulls managed to score on three straight possessions in the final minute of the first quarter, which ended on a layup by Malone after a pick-and-roll.

2nd quarter, 6:33, jump shot, Jordan, 38-33 Utah
Utah pushed the lead to 16 points early in the second quarter as Jordan looks weary, but His Airness brings the Bulls back, including a crossover stepback jumper.

2nd quarter, 3:02, dunk Jordan, 44-43 Utah
The Jazz offense has stalled with Malone on the bench with three fouls while Jordan picks up a steal and slams home Pippen’s missed layup.

2nd quarter, 0:01, dunk, Russell, 53-49
Two Jordan free throws put the Bulls ahead but the Jazz got an exclamation point finish to end the first half on Bryon Russell’s big dunk – Jordan picking up 17 points in the second quarter.

3rd quarter, 5:14, layup, Jordan, 63-63
During halftime, Jordan was hooked up to an IV to help remain hydrated. MJ wasn’t needed early in the second half as Pippen stepped up while Jordan’s sweeping drive led to a left-handed layup off the glass to even the game. That would be his only basket of the third quarter, which came to a close with Utah up 72-65.

4th quarter, 9:03, three-pointer Jordan, 77-77
The Jazz extended the gap to 77-69 but Jordan and the Bulls stormed back as Michael’s trey knotted the game. It seems as though he can barely stand.

4th quarter, 2:46, jumper, Jordan, 84-83 Utah
The Bulls defense is shutting down Utah but Chicago can’t muster much offense themselves, leaving Jordan to do it himself. Russell gives him space and Jordan races into the lane and hits a jumper falling away to the side.

4th quarter, 1:04, airball, Malone, 85-84 Utah
Malone scored just one point in the fourth quarter with the MVP airballing a long fadeaway jumper.

4th quarter, 0:25, three-pointer, Jordan, 88-85 Chicago
This sequence is the game and Jordan in a nutshell. Chicago is down one with 46 seconds left and Jordan makes the first free throw but misses the second, only to have Luc Longley tip it to Jordan. Pippen has the ball into the post and Russell for some reason leaves Jordan to help and Jordan gets the ball and buries it from downtown.

4th quarter, 0:06, dunk, Longley, 90-87 Chicago
After a quick dunk by Greg Ostertag, Malone commits another blunder, not fouling Pippen, who hits ahead to Steve Kerr for a feed to Toni Kukoc, who finds Longley for the dunk. It was here, with the game all-but decided that Jordan famously holds onto Pippen out of exhaustion on their way to the bench for the timeout.

The Bulls ended up winning 90-88 before taking Game 6 as well for the title. The saying goes you want to leave it all on the floor … and Michael Jordan certainly did that, finishing with 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block in 44 minutes. And going down in history with the famous “Flu Game”.


by FIVE Magazine #168 – Michael Jordan: The Flu Game – Text: Ole Frerks

follow FIVE on Facebook and Instagram!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *