A Utah man claims he was the delivery man who made and delivered pizza to Michael Jordan the night before the 1997 NBA Finals Flu Game. And he said there is no way the pizza made the player, who many consider to be the greatest ever, sick.
Craig Fite called in to local radio station 1280 The Zone to say that he was the assistant manager, pizza maker and delivery man of the thin-crust extra pepperoni delivered to a Park City hotel that is blamed on Jordan getting sick. The 1997 game is back in the sports limelight because while the most popular team sports are sidelined because of coronavirus, ESPN has been airing a 10-hour documentary "The Last Dance," highlighting Jordan's final title chase with the Chicago Bulls.
A big part of the end of the series also features the Utah Jazz team led by John Stockton and Karl Malone. Game 5, known as "The Flu Game" in NBA lore, saw the superstar battle on the court and then get help even standing up when game action ended. Other versions of the legend have Jordan visiting Las Vegas the night before the game and returning to Salt Lake with a ferocious hangover, but Fite said he say Jordan at about 10:30 p.m., making the Vegas story fall apart too.
During the documentary Jordan trainer Tim Grover claims that five guys showed up to the Park City Marriott with the pizza and tried to get a look inside the room.
Fite not only refuted that account on Monday but called it "crap," and said he wanted to call it worse but he knew he was on family-friendly radio airwaves. The full interview is at the end of this story.
While talking with 1280's Big Show hosts Jake Scott and Gordon Monson, Fite provided a detailed narrative of being both the maker of the pizza at the shop and the deliverer from the Park City Pizza Hut he said is now torn down but was near Park City High School at the time. Because the pie was headed to the new Marriott, and because it was known the Bulls were staying there, he was trusted with the task to take care of the pie because he was the only Bulls fan in the shop.
Fite provided details about police security at the hotel, wearing Pizza Hut's uniform, knocking on the door, getting a $20 for the approximately $15 pizza and asking if he could say hello to "Mike." He insisted on the Utah radio show that only he and the delivery driver were present — not the five guys talked about in the documentary. He said he did look into the room and saw Jordan sitting at a table inside the room, possibly playing cards. He also described the smell on the Bulls' floor like being punched in the face with cigar smoke.
According to Fite, Jordan waved and said, "Hey thanks man."
And that was it, according to Fite, who also said Monday he was enough of a Jordan fan to name his son after him. But the visit?
"It really wasn't all that exciting," he said while taking definite exception to the words from Bob Costas on national television the next day that Jordan had food poisoning from pizza.
"I am 100% sure it wasn't food poisoning or it sure as heck wasn't pizza," Fite said. He did allow that perhaps the NBA All-Star did have food poisoning from something else he ate, but not from the pizza that was made from the same ingredients as other pies that were delivered the same night with no other calls about illness.
"That pizza was made well, I followed all the rules, heck at the time I was so busy trying to impress the store manager there," Fite said.
One thing that is not in dispute, Jordan impressed in the Bulls 90 - 88 victory over the Jazz on June 11, 1997. During TV timeouts teammates helped him stand or get to the bench where he seemed to be summoning energy to play again. His statline from the game showed he played 44 minutes, hit 13 of 27 shots, 2 of 5 from three, made 10 of 12 free throws and finished with a game-high 38 points. He also managed 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and a block.