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Utah Jazz analyst Holly Rowe has a new theory about Michael Jordan’s ‘Flu Game’

The longtime sports reporter reveals on a podcast that a TV craft services table may be behind one of the most famous NBA Finals performances ever.

(Associated Press file photo) Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, shown in a 1997 game, has long blamed an allegedly tainted pizza from a Utah restaurant for getting him sick prior to his legendary "Flu Game" in the ’97 Finals. Utah Jazz analyst Holly Rowe, however, believes he got food poisoning from something eaten off a craft services table at the arena.

ESPN reporter Holly Rowe will be moonlighting as an analyst for Utah Jazz television broadcasts this coming season. Before a single game has even been played, though, she has delivered a compelling hot take.

As a guest on the Jazz’s “Roundball Roundup” podcast episode posted Friday, Rowe touched on one of the most infamous moments in the franchise’s history — Michael Jordan’s famed “Flu Game” in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.

It’s famously well-established that the Hall of Famer was sick in the lead-up to that contest on June 11, 1997, where he went on to rack up 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals, while giving the Bulls a 3-2 lead in the series they’d go on to win for their latest NBA championship. The cause of his illness, however, has long been in dispute — with Jordan positing he got food poisoning from an intentionally-tainted pizza delivered from a Utah restaurant.

Rowe believes Jordan did indeed have food poisoning — but from some food he plucked off of a TV craft services table at the arena.

She recounts that she was working as a runner for NBC Sports during that Finals, and on the day of Game 6, had an encounter with analyst Quinn Buckner that, in her mind, put the pieces together.

“He was the radio analyst for the Chicago Bulls at that time, and he was a buddy of mine, he was chatting with me, ‘Hey, where were you yesterday? I didn’t see you yesterday.’ And I was, ‘Oh, I was very sick,’” Rowe said she told him. “‘Oh my gosh, my stomach has been really sick. I had a stomach flu.’”

Buckner told her to stay put, then brought the Bulls’ athletic trainer over to her.

“[He] asks me all these questions — about my illness, about my bowel movements recently. This is too much information, but this is a real story. And I’m mortified, and I’m looking at Quinn like, ‘Why did you get this guy to ask me all these personal questions?’” Rowe said. “They were trying to figure out where Michael Jordan got sick from, and why he was sick.

“Michael Jordan grabbed some food off the TV craft services table leaving the building [after Game 4], and so did I,” she added.

Given the similarity of her symptoms to the the superstar’s, and given that they both grabbed the same food from the same table beforehand, Rowe is apparently of the opinion that the pizza joint in question finally deserves some vindication.

FILE - In this June 11, 1997 file photo, Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen, right, embraces an exhausted Michael Jordan following their win in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City. The flu-like illness Jordan fought through to lead the Bulls to a crucial victory in the 1997 NBA Finals created instant fodder for the virtue of perseverance. Pushing past boundaries, overcoming obstacles and adversity — that is part of the ethos of major competitive sports. That is how elite athletes become wired to win. (AP Photo/Jack Smith, File)

“I know Michael Jordan has this theory about this mystery pizza that was delivered. I’m pretty sure he actually got food poisoning from the craft services table in the Delta Center at that time,” she concludes. “Because I did, too. … I’m pretty sure that’s how he got sick.”

The full episode of the “Roundball Roundup” episode can be heard here. Rowe and host JP Chunga begin discussing the Flu Game at the 22:55 mark.

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