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NBA Flashback: Looking Back at Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game”

Chicago Bulls 90-88 Utah Jazz

When it comes to Michael Jordan, there are so many great NBA moments to choose from. However, for all his time on the court dominating the competition in the 90’s, this one, in particular, stood out the most.

It was Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals where the series is level at two games apiece with both teams fighting for all the marbles.

The Bulls were reeling from losing two straight games after great performances by the Jazz’s lethal duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone, and they were desperate for some inspiration to regain the series lead.

It didn’t help when their best player in Michael Jordan was feeling really ill on the next match. While it remains a mystery up to this day on what really happened the night before, His Airness played the game anyway and turned in one of the most iconic performances of his storied career.

By rallying the Bulls on both ends all throughout the game through his sheer will and determination, Jordan catapulted Chicago to a crucial 3-2 series lead which put them in prime position to secure their fifth NBA title in the last seven years.

So today while we’re still waiting for the league to resume, join SBOTOP as we take another ride to the time machine to relive Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.

 

Highlights of the game

While Michael Jordan fired blanks on his first few attempts, he was able to get his scoring going to snap the Bulls’ drought in the first quarter.

Chicago would find themselves down by double digits early in the first half as John Stockton and Karl Malone torched their defence, while Jordan – who had a bad shooting percentage in the first period – kept on firing away.

But by using his threat to score, Jordan managed to create for his teammates while being active on the defencive end. He fueled a 13-2 run to bring them back within the game during the second period while showing flashes of his old self by scoring 17 points in that quarter alone.

The game was pretty close all throughout the second half, and Michael Jordan needed every ounce of energy he can get to will the Bulls to the pivotal victory. For every run down to the other end, you could see and feel the tiredness in his face as if he was going to collapse.

The Jazz, though, would continue to hurt the Bulls with Stockton and Malone. And midway through the final period, Utah built a double-digit lead once more.

However, Jordan and his Bulls didn’t give up as they played physical and rugged to eventually regain the lead – capped off by a 5-0 personal run by Michael Jordan.

The match went back and forth in the last two minutes when both teams went into a shootout. But during the last 30 seconds, Jordan came up big once again.

With Scottie Pippen trying to take advantage of being guarded by Jeff Hornacek, he was double teamed and found an open Michael Jordan for the backbreaking three-pointer that iced the game. The Bulls won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead going back home.

“I almost played myself into passing out. I came in and I was almost dehydrated, and it was all just to win a basketball game. I couldn’t breathe. My energy was really low. They started giving me Gatorade, and I thought about IV,” detailed Jordan on how he felt during the match.

 

Key statistics

Michael Jordan almost singlehandedly carried the Bulls on his back by recording 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

Other than Jordan, only Scottie Pippen and Luc Longley scored in double digits for Chicago with 17 and 12 respectively.

Meanwhile, the Jazz had a balanced scoring output from their players with five of them tallying double-digit points. Karl Malone led the way with 19 points, seven boards, and six assists but he only shot 41-per cent from the field.

 

What happened next?

Michael Jordan and the Bulls single-handedly dominated the NBA during the 90’s
                                                        Chicago Bulls squad during their championship parade in 1998 celebrating their 6th ring

The Bulls would seal the deal in Game 6 via a Steve Kerr game-winner. All in all, Chicago would win six titles in the last eight seasons.

Fast forward to today, Michael Jordan is now the majority owner for the Charlotte Hornets while Steve Kerr is the head coach for the Steph Curry and Klay Thompson-led Golden State Warriors – who went to five straight finals prior to this season. Scottie Pippen, meanwhile, is currently an NBA analyst for The Jump.

John Stockton and Karl Malone ended up being ringless in their NBA careers. However, Stockton holds the all-time assists record while Malone is second in the all-time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The Bulls, along with the Warriors and Hornets, have some of the lowest NBA 2020 predictions of making it to the playoffs for this 2020 campaign, as per our NBA 2020 updates.

 

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