'The Last Dance' Episode 9: Michael Jordan Reveals Poisoned Pizza Behind Infamous 1997 NBA Finals 'Flu Game'

Such was Michael Jordan's dominance throughout his career that some of his most defining performances have developed their own title. Think of "The Shot," Jordan's buzzer-beater to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the first round of the 1989 playoffs or of "The Shrug Game," which has come to identify Jordan's nonchalant shrug towards the scorer's table after he hit his sixth three-pointer in the first half of Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals.

In the Jordan annals, however, no moniker is more famous than "The Flu Game." Those two simple words have NBA fans nodding sagely in agreement and reminiscing about one of Jordan's most extraordinary performances.

Jordan looked distinctly worse for wear as the Chicago Bulls arrived at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, to warm-up ahead of Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Rumors a severe bout of flu would rule him out of the game continued to swirl around until shortly before tip off when MJ joined his teammates on the court.

Despite looking feverish and fatigued throughout the game, Jordan somehow elevated himself and his game to a whole new level, finishing with 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Bulls defeated the Jazz 90-88 to take a crucial 3-2 lead.

With the result secured, Jordan almost collapsed into Scottie Pippen's arms as he walked off the court, an image that has become one of the most iconic of Jordan's career and the NBA as a whole. "The Flu Game" has since accrued legendary status, but it appears the moniker was misplaced all along.

During Episode 9 of The Last Dance, ESPN's 10-part documentary chronicling his final season with the Bulls, Jordan revealed he had suffered from food poisoning rather than flu. The six-time NBA recalled being in his hotel room in Salt Lake City with trainer Tim Grover and personal assistant George Koehler the night before Game 5. When Jordan felt hungry at around 10:30 p.m., the trio set about finding something to eat and had to settle on pizza after realizing nothing else was open.

At this point, The Last Dance introduced a new layer of intrigue to the mystique surrounding "The Flu Game" as Grover felt there was something wrong with the pizza when it was delivered.

"Five guys delivering one pizza," Grover said in The Last Dance. "They're all trying to look in. I take the pizza. I pay them. I put this pizza down. I say, 'I've got a bad feeling about this pizza.'"

Jordan had the whole pizza, while Koehler and Grover left it untouched. The latter was called into Jordan's room shortly after 2 a.m. and when he arrived he found MJ curled up in a ball and shaking, asking for a doctor.

"I ate the pizza," Jordan said in the documentary. "All by myself. Nobody else ate the pizza. I wake up about 2:30 throwing up left and right."

"It really wasn't the flu game. It was food poisoning."

Unable to keep any food or fluids down and completely exhausted, Jordan was told by the Bulls medical staff he had no chance of playing. However, he eventually got out of bed late in the afternoon, in time to arrive at the Delta Center for the 7 p.m. tip-off.

While in the documentary Grover hinted the pizza may have been deliberately poisoned to rule Jordan out of the game, The Last Dance's director Jason Hehir suggested MJ may only have himself to blame.

"So earlier that night [the rest of Jordan's camp] all ate dinner and didn't wait for Michael when they ordered," Hehir told ESPN's Jalen & Jacoby Aftershow after the final episodes aired on Sunday.

"So it gets to be about 10 or 11 o'clock and Michael is starving, and says 'I want a pizza. When the pizza shows up, Michael says, 'Everybody do not touch this pizza. This is mine. You didn't wait for me, don't touch this.' So he spits on the pizza."

The truth may never be known, but "The Flu Game" or "The Food Poisoning Game" will always remain one of Jordan's most iconic.

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls walks on the court during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 11, 1997. The Bulls defeated the Jazz 90-88 to take a 3-2 lead in the series and would win the title two days later after winning Game 6. Brian Bahr/Allsport/Getty