Trainer says Michael Jordan’s Flu Game linked to bad pizza

Michael Jordan kind of defined an era for me. Growing up in the early 90s, I was swept up by the awesomeness of the Chicago Bulls and the hip culture surrounding the NBA. After school most days I shot hoops in my best friend’s backyard; I watched all the nationally televised NBA games on TV; and, I had an unhealthy obsession with Nike Air Jordan shoes.MJ-Scottie

In June 1997, at the pinnacle of my formative high school years, an epic NBA Finals game between the Bulls and Utah Jazz happened – now known as The Flu Game. Jordan wasn’t sure he was going to be able to play and had been rumored to have a 103F fever and gastro issues. Although looking exhausted during every stoppage in play he scored 38 points including a 3-pointer to seal the game with 25 seconds. The Bulls went on to win the next game and win the championship.  I started university a couple of months later and lost my interest in NBA basketball.

Gastro illnesses sweep through sports teams all the time (including 13 different NBA teams in 2010) leading to panicked fantasy owners, but according to ESPN, a former personal trainer says that Jordan’s illness was a result of some bad pizza.

Tim Grover, said it was food poisoning, not the flu, that affected the former Chicago Bulls star during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.

“Yes, 100 percent poisoned for (‘The Flu Game’),” Grover said on 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. Everybody kind of knew where we were staying.

“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.”

Add amateur epidemiologist to Grover’s CV. I wonder what he thinks the pathogen was.

This entry was posted in Celebrity, Food Safety Culture and tagged , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.