Pizza Maker Responds to Jordan’s “Flu Game” Allegations

It has become one of the most iconic performances in sports history: The Flu Game. During the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls megastar Michael Jordan scored 38 points, helping his team take game five in the series 90-88. A tight margin in what would be a hard-fought series. That game helped cement Jordan’s already incredible legacy, as people are still using it as the bar against which all ‘will to win’ is measured.

For decades, basketball fans believed a flu-stricken Jordan led his team to victory through the sheer force of his indomitable will and incredible talent. But, an episode of the popular ESPN docu-series, The Last Dance, tells a different version of the story. At least, in the episode, Jordan does.

The basketball icon says he and his personal trainer, Tim Grover, were in their hotel room the night before the game. They were hungry, so they called the local Pizza Hut for delivery. Grover says he and Michael were a bit suspicious when five people showed up to deliver the pizza. But, things like that happened when Jordan fans were involved, so they thought nothing of it. Jordan reports eating the entire pizza on his own. He said: “I ate the pizza, all by myself. Nobody else ate the pizza. I wake up about 2:30 a.m., throwing up… It wasn’t the flu game. It was food poisoning.”

Food poisoning. In an opponent’s city the night before a major game in the series. That allegation rocked the sports world and shifted one of sports’ most enduring legends.

The allegation landed so hard that national sports media connected with the man who says he delivered that pizza. At the time of the incident, Craig Fite had just been promoted to assistant manager at that Salt Lake City Pizza Hut. He claims he was a Bulls fan hoping to meet his hero, not a Jazz fan trying to sabotage the “away” team. Fite initially shared his story with a local radio station. In that interview, he called Jordan’s account “a bunch of crap,” adding that he was a Bulls fan. “I remember saying, ‘I will make the pizza, because I don’t want any of you doing anything to it…’ And then I told the driver, ‘You’re going to take me there…’” Fite supported his version of events by revealing that he named his son Jordan after his basketball hero.

He added, “I followed all the rules. I was trying to impress the store manager…” Fite said upon delivery, he felt like he had been “punched in the face with cigar smoke…” He recounts that he only caught a “glimpse” of the NBA superstar before handing over the pizza, probably to Grover. Fite also claimed the allegation that “five people” showed up was wrong. “There were two of us. I didn’t even have five people working with me at (that store).”

Since Fite’s initial radio interview, sports media has done more digging, and the narrative is taking on a life of its own. It will be interesting to see if Fite has more to say or if anyone else comes forward to offer their version of the facts.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

View more posts from this author