The Game: 1997 Finals, Game 5
The Series Situation: Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz tied, 2-2
The Play: So sick and suffering from flu-like symptoms that at times he staggered, a dehydrated and exhausted Michael Jordan wills himself to 38 points against the Utah Jazz in a pivotal Game 5, adding to the his legend as a clutch performer and relentless competitor.
The Significance: By 1997, there weren’t many ways for Jordan to be considered an underdog. But playing through illness — food poisoning or a sudden and severe virus had seized him between Games 4 and 5 in Salt Lake City, Utah — did add a new chapter to his legend.
Lacking energy, the Bulls’ future Hall of Famer looked lost in the first quarter, then scored 17 points in the second. He struggled in the third, then flickered on in the fourth to score seven points during a 10-0 run that erased Utah’s 77-69 lead. His 3-pointer in the final half minute gave Chicago a lead it did not lose, setting up the famous video clip of teammate Scottie Pippen helping his rag-doll pal off the floor.
“Probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Jordan said afterward. “I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game.” Not just any game, though — a Finals game. Said Bulls coach Phil Jackson: “This was a heroic effort, one to add to the collection of efforts that make up his legend.”
— Steve Aschburner
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