Entertainment

Did Someone Poison Michael Jordan's Pizza in 1997?

The final episodes of 'The Last Dance' test a confusing theory.

jordan pizza
ESPN

The final two episodes of The Last Dance offered a triumphant picture of the Bulls' road to six championships, but they also introduced a big mystery: Did someone poison Michael Jordan during the 1997 championships in Utah? That's what MJ says, but -- wait, what? 

Let's back up a little. If you're familiar with Jordan lore, you probably have heard about the "flu game," during which the basketball star battled illness to secure a victory for the Bulls during Game 5 of the '96-'97 finals against the Jazz. But in The Last Dance, Jordan and his confidantes say it was no flu at all: It was food poisoning thanks to a late night pizza. 

The story as Jordan, his trainer Tim Grover, and his personal assistant George Koehler tell it goes something like this: Around 10:30pm, Jordan was hungry. There was no room service. Nothing was open, save for one pizzeria. They ordered a pizza. "Five guys delivering one pizza," Grover says. "And they are all trying to look in." Grover pays for the pizza and tells Jordan, "I've got a bad feeling about this." Jordan, per his recount, ate the pizza all by himself, and then woke up at about 2:30am, puking. He's sure it was food poisoning. 

And that's basically all the information we get. Did a group of dudes at a Utah pizza place devise a very quick plan to poison Michael Jordan? Or did he just get some bad cheese? Why were there five people at the door? Did they just want to get a glimpse of one of the most famous men on the planet? Or was there something more nefarious afoot? 

Naturally, viewers were confused. One of the loudest voices questioning this anecdote was comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who highlighted how ludicrous this all sounds on Twitter. 

Other people thought there were maybe other explanations for Jordan's bad tummy. A hangover possibly? Or maybe just an inordinate amount of pizza...

One account just went for a meme invoking two more icons of '90s culture, the Olsen twins. 

At least one of the lingering mysteries of the incident was answered: Why was Jordan the only person to eat the pizza? Director Jason Hehir has some thoughts. First, all the other people present had eaten dinner. Second, the grosser explanation, Jordan spit on the pizza. Hehir explained on ESPN's David Jacoby and Jalen Rose aftershow that Jordan reportedly had a habit of spitting on food to mark it as his own. Hehir also mentioned that he does not believe the pizza was "spiked." He adds: "I do believe that nobody else ate that pizza." So we're left with a lot of holes still in this story. Time for a 10-hour documentary series on the pizza incident alone. 

Update: One man has come forward and claimed that he, a Bulls fan and Pizza Hut employee, made the pie in question and delivered it along with one other person. He says that he didn't do anything to tamper with it and even made sure there wasn't a "a bad batch of pepperoni" after learning Jordan became ill. The plot thickens...

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.