Twenty-four years in the past immediately, Michael Jordan performed in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in opposition to the Utah Jazz whereas being — because the band Disturbed would say — down with the illness after getting meals poisoning from a pizza delivered to his resort room the night time earlier than by 5 randos.
In Netflix’s The Last Dance, Jordan’s coach, Tim Grover, even acknowledged that he “had a bad feeling about [that] pizza,” however Jordan ate the entire thing anyway. Still, Jordan recorded 38 factors, seven rebounds, 5 assists, and three steals whereas main his crew to a victory. It’s a game that has gone down within the annals of basketball historical past as one of many best single-game performances of all time. To this present day, we nonetheless use it as a measuring follow which to match different gamers’ greatness.
LeBron James has performed a playoff game with meals poisoning. Kobe Bryant performed with the flu within the 2002 NBA Finals. There have been quite a few Phantom of the Opera masks video games, comeback tales, and even the time Derek Fisher flew throughout the nation after his daughter had eye surgical procedure to rejoin the Jazz within the second half of a playoff game in 2007. Fisher knocked down a late 3-pointer to seal victory.
Yet, the legacy of the “Flu Game” rises above all of them. Why? It’s a combination of a bunch of issues: Jordan being Jordan, the truth that it was in opposition to two legends in their very own proper — Karl Malone and John Stockton, and so on. But a further issue that possible performs into that game’s greatness is the truth that Jordan didn’t need to play in it in any respect, however he did anyway.
The sequence was tied 2-2 heading into Game 5. It wasn’t a must-win. The Bulls might’ve given Jordan some relaxation and headed again to Chicago for Games 6 and 7 and win all of it in entrance of the house followers. Sure, it’d be much less anxiety-inducing to keep away from the winner-take-all Game 7 fully, and you might make an argument that you just’d wish to keep away from any momentum swinging the mistaken approach, however ultimately, there would nonetheless have been a chance to win the title had the Bulls misplaced Game 5.
In immediately’s NBA, that may never occur. You assume LeBron would come out for a game that wasn’t a must-win if he was as sick as Jordan? Be actual right here, we’re speaking in regards to the man who simply headed to the locker room earlier than his crew’s game resulted in a blowout loss to the Suns. You assume James Harden would play in a game this yr that his crew didn’t completely have to win if he was feeling off? I doubt it. His Nets are doing superb with out him. Why would he threat agitating something after two setbacks?
I’m not making an attempt to assault the character of both of those gamers. In reality, I believe it’s good that we not count on athletes to play whereas they’re nonetheless recovering. Athletes are individuals, too, and we shouldn’t count on any extra from them than what you and I might do of their sneakers. The level I used to be making an attempt to make within the earlier paragraph is that due to the present NBA panorama involving load administration and superteams, no participant will ever be compelled to exit and play in a game that isn’t a must-win, and that’s why the Jordan “Flu Game” will ceaselessly be the best single-game playoff efficiency ever.
A bit of additional down the rabbit gap and you might argue that, due to the load administration development, gamers usually tend to be more healthy late within the season than gamers within the ‘80s and ‘90s. Therefore, it’s far much less possible that a star participant would be lower than one hundred pc forward of a must-win playoff game. Not to say that now athletes know higher than to eat a entire pizza delivered to them by 5 mysterious strangers the night time earlier than a game.
MJ’s “Flu Game” will ceaselessly be the best efficiency in NBA playoff historical past. Its legacy has remained untarnished via quite a few different incredible performances and with how the NBA has shifted towards participant empowerment and load administration, it’s unlikely any star participant will ever discover themselves in a comparable scenario shifting ahead. That’s a good thing. It retains the legend of the “Flu Game” intact, and it permits immediately’s athletes to do what’s finest for them, which is how sports activities ought to be… even when we’d like to see another game attain that stage of greatness.