Bulls Team Doctor Debunks ‘Flu Game’ Food Poisoning Theory

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Anyone who has ever kept up with basketball — even if you don’t nowadays — has probably heard of Michael Jordan’s famous “Flu Game” during the 1997 NBA Finals. The legendary Chicago Bulls shooting guard dropped 38 points in a Game 5 victory over the Utah Jazz, but he did so while dealing with some sort of body ailment.

For years, everyone thought Jordan had the flu. But during ESPN’s 10-part documentary The Last Dance, which aired last May, Jordan and his camp dropped a bombshell — they believe he actually had food poisoning from a pizza from Pizza Hut.

Granted, the man who delivered that pizza almost 25 years ago, Craig Fite, has strongly denied those claims. Lucky for him, the team doctor for the Bulls back then, Dr. John Hefferon, might have his back.

Hefferon recently joined Dr. David Chao, whom you all know as Pro Football Doc, for an interview. In that interview, Chao wisely asked Hefferon if the team doctors did in fact think that Jordan had food poisoning leading up to Game 5. His response:

“No, I don’t know that he had food poisoning,” Hefferson said laughingly. “We always thought he might have had altitude sickness.”

Chao immediately followed it up by saying “so maybe that pizza place is exonerated,” which led to this follow up from Hefferon:

“Yeah, maybe. It may very well be,” he said as the two continued to laugh.

Boom. Bombshell.

Looks like we might have to rename the incredible performance once again. After 23 years of calling it the “Flu Game,” we spent roughly a year trying to adjust to “Food Poisoning Game,” which clearly didn’t have the same ring to it. Now we can officially call it the “Altitude Sickness Game.”

If you’re wondering how to feel about that renaming, trust me, you’re not alone. But at least one person — looking at you, Fite — is thrilled to hear this news.

You can check out that entire interview between Chao and Hefferon below. If you want the specific spot where they discuss their “Flu Game” thoughts, fast forward to 9 and a half minutes in.

Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.

Written by Clint Lamb

Clint Lamb is a College Football Writer for OutKick. Managing Editor for Roll Tide Wire. Sports radio host for The Bullpen on 730/103.9 The UMP. Co-host for The 'Bama Beat podcast through The Tuscaloosa News and TideSports.com.


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  1. Altitude sickness doesn’t really work for this. I’m in healthcare and have done a lot of wilderness and altitude medicine. Altitude sickness typically doesn’t affect people until you are above 9000ft and the treatment is to get the person back below 9000ft. The altitude in SLC and even in the mountain towns surrounding the area is well below 9000ft. Also, even if he was above that level, he would have improved once they got him back to SLC. Fever is also not a typical symptom with altitude sickness. Headache, nausea, shortness of breath and weakness all would be though. I’m not sure what it was since I’m not privy to his condition at the time but I don’t think altitude sickness would explain it.

  2. Jordan didn’t have food poisoning or altitude sickness. The man had a hang over! Think about it, Salt Lake City is like a 70 minute flight to Vegas. Rodman was going to Vegas with Billy Corgan, the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins, one of the biggest artist on the planet. Where is the 1 place that could and would keep a secret this big? Answer;: Casinos.

    You’re telling me, Jordan, whom LOVES to gamble, is going to pass up going partying in Vegas?

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