Was Michael Jordan poisoned???

Illustration for article titled Was Michael Jordan poisoned???
Photo: Sporting News Archive (Getty Images)

Update: Immediately after I posted this story, I noticed that the Chicago Tribune had published a story, just 20 minutes before, that delves deeper into this matter. More specifically: the maker of the fateful pizza has come forward!

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His name is Craig Fite, and he was the assistant manager at the Park City Pizza Hut that fateful night. He told The Zone Sports Network that he personally prepared Jordan’s pizza with his own freshly washed hands. It was a thin, crisp pepperoni pizza. He also delivered it. He was accompanied by just one other person. When he arrived at Jordan’s hotel room, he was greeted by a cloud of cigar smoke. Later, when he heard suspicions of food poisoning, he felt sick. But he maintains that there was nothing wrong with his pizza. “It’s a thin, crisp pepperoni pizza,” he said. “It’s tough to get food poisoning off that unless of course you add to it. That sure as heck didn’t happen.” Fite prefers to blame the cigars.

So glad that’s all cleared up!

Original post: The ESPN documentary miniseries The Last Dance about the great 1990s Chicago Bulls, but mostly Michael Jordan, has come to an end after five glorious weeks of spectacular jump shots, baggy ’90s shorts, and sweet, sweet nostalgia. There was truly no better time to be a Chicagoan. For a more thorough recap, head over to The A.V. Club where Danette Chavez and Laura Adamczyk, who both remember that time vividly, have been chatting every Monday about the previous weekend’s episodes.

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I, too, have my Bulls memories, but I won’t bore you with my thoughts about sitting up in the rafters of United Center and watching Jordan singlehandedly score 25 points in the fourth quarter to carry the Bulls to a come-from-behind victory and realizing, for the first time, that I was watching something I would remember forever, because this is a food site and I can’t remember anything about what I was eating at the time, though it’s a good bet it was a hot dog.

So let’s get to the food content: the startling revelation that MJ’s “Flu Game” during the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz might not have actually been caused by flu. A brief recap: it was Game Five in Salt Lake City, the Bulls and the Jazz were tied at two games apiece, and Jordan was ill. But he played anyway, spectacularly, and the Bulls won! (For more details, go here.) The official word was that Jordan had the flu. But in The Last Dance, Jordan revealed that he had food poisoning from a pizza he’d eaten. None of the other Bulls were sick because, angry that his teammates had ordered dinner without him and in order to insure that he would have the pizza to himself, Jordan had spit on it. Well, hey, you have to protect your food.

Shocking!!! Could it be possible that someone had purposefully given the Bulls superstar a tainted pizza to ensure a Jazz victory? Is there any way to investigate this 23-year-old attempt at sabotage and bring the evildoers to justice? And which element in the pizza would have caused the gastronomic distress?

As Adamczyk notes over at The A.V. Club:

I think most Chicagoans know that the farther away from Chicago you get, the worse the pizza gets. Jordan probably knew it, but the man was hungry! I myself would not expect good pizza in Utah. I don’t know if it was an intentional sabotage, but the whole thing about five different dudes showing up to deliver the pizza was definitely a little weird. I don’t know how fruitful it will be to go down this particular rabbit hole—with people having said in the past that Jordan was actually hungover that game, not sick with the flu—but perhaps what’s important to note here is that he didn’t let it stop him from winning.

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That’s right. Sometimes, good actually does triumph over evil pizza.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

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First off, the idea that it was food poisoning from a pizza is a little hard to believe. That’s pretty fast turn-around for food poisoning of a food that was cooked at over 500 degrees right before it got delivered, is full of salt, sugar, and other preservatives, and is a corporate churned-out product identical to many others. That doesn’t mean it’s not the pizza at fault, though...

As someone who regularly ate Pizza Hut in the ‘90s because they were next to our work and my family really liked their sauce before the recipe change, there were a few times where a totally cooked pizza made us sick not because it was bad, but because it was so greasy.

I buy Mr. Fite’s story if other publications had vetted it. It sounds logical that it’d be a memorable event for him and that he’d personally want to handle all aspects of that pizza, and he did nothing wrong. But I also believe the pizza could still be the culprit -- I can’t imagine playing sports within even 12 hours of eating any pizza, that big lump of dough and cheese bombing your stomach.