Did he have the flu, or was it food poisoning, maybe applesauce? No one but Michael Jordan really knows and he hasn’t said much. Regardless we know that on June 11, 1997 he suited up when he probably should have stayed in his hotel room and watched game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals on tv. But it just that, the NBA Finals, and the series was tied 2-2. Also a few nights before he had missed a game-tying 3 during the waning moments of the last game which resulted in the loss. So even as the doctor said he wouldn’t play and he didn’t go to shoot-around, deep down Jordan knew was planning on playing as long as his body let him.
With just over a hour left until tip-off, Jordan climbed out of his bed and headed to the Utah’s Delta Center. Laced up in the black and Varsity Red version of his Air Jordan 12’s he somehow started the game. But from the tip you could tell he was drained and not remotely close to full health. With their leader struggling, the Bulls were down by as much as 16 in the first half. At every time-out Jordan was on the bench replenishing fluids, every break in action, his hands on his knees getting as much rest as he could. Somehow during the second quarter Jordan was making plays and getting into the flow of the game. He was making shots he was missing in the first quarter. By halftime the Jazz lead was cut down to just four.
However the third quarter was tough one for the Bulls. Phil Jackson trying to get his star rest but running with only a 8-man rotation didn’t help. It also hurt that Scottie Pippen having a tough offensive game although he was spending lots of energy on the defensive end to take the burden off of MJ. Going into the fourth the Jazz’s lead was at 8 points but this was Jordan time. This was crunch time and he was visibly more aggressive and getting his team involved. With under a minute left Jordan was fouled and was able to tie up the game from the free-throw line. A big 3-point basket with helped give the Bulls a lead that they never relinquished thanks to John Stockton missing a free throw and the clock working against the Jazz.
At the end of the game with the victory in grasp Jordan collapsed into Pippen’s arms creating an image that basketball fans have burned into the memory. The Bulls 90-88 gave them a 3-2 lead going home to Chicago. Jordan’s final stat line for the game was 13-27 from the floor, 10-12 from the charity stripe, with seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block during 44 minutes played.
Regardless if it was the pizza or applesauce or maybe some other activity, Jordan gave us a game that goes down as one of the best in NBA Finals history. Also we got a pair of sneakers that not only got their own nickname but which sold for $104,000. Maybe it was the shoes? Naw it was all Michael Jordan.