Michael Jordan was sick. On the morning of Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Jordan had a 103-degree fever and was experiencing severe flu-like symptoms. With the series tied at two games apiece and the matchup shifting to a hostile environment in Utah for a decisive fifth game, it was uncertain if Jordan would even have the requisite energy to suit up.

Not only did Jordan take the court, but he dominated Utah, racking up 38 points and 7 rebounds, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 25 seconds left in the game. Jordan was swiping passes and running the fast break while getting pumped with fluids, covered in towels and doused with ice packs during every time out. With the game all but decided, Jordan could barely walk to the bench for a final timeout with seconds to play, as teammate Scottie Pippen had to prop his heroic teammate up on the way to the huddle. On arguably the biggest gut-check night of Jordan’s Herculean career, he was wearing his “Black/Red” Jordan XIIs, But after that night, they would be renamed the “Flu Games” and become a part of sports lore and sneaker vernacular for the ensuing two decades.

Despite the “flu,” Jordan and the Bulls would hang on to win and take a 3-2 series lead, before ultimately vanquishing the Jazz for good in Game Six back in Chicago. While the “Flu Game” has taken on a life of its own in the two decades since that night in Utah, Jordan has since debunked some of the details from that legendary performance. In ESPN’s 10-hour documentary The Last Dance, which chronicles the final 1997-1998 season of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, Jordan claims that he wasn’t suffering from the flu, but instead a violent bout of food poisoning. Up late the night before and clamoring for some food, the only option was ordering from a nearby pizzeria. Despite suspicions from some of his friends and handlers, Jordan ate the pizza and suffered the consequences throughout the night and into the next day.

While the “Food Poisoning” XIIs don’t quite roll off the tongue the way the “Flu Game” XIIs do, it doesn’t change the fact that it was a heroic output on a night when him and his team had their collective backs against the wall and the fate of the NBA Championship hung in the balance. It’s the story of that night in Utah, along with the XII’s design and legacy, that makes it one of the most important Air Jordans of all time.

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