June 11 marks the 23-year anniversary of the "The Flu Game," the famous 1997 NBA Finals moment when Michael Jordan overcame a stomach virus to lead the Chicago Bulls to victory over the Utah Jazz. Ironically, one of the biggest revelations to come out of "The Last Dance" documentary on the Bulls is that Jordan believes he suffered from food poisoning in a doctored pizza before the famous game. The alleged pizzeria owner has now refuted those allegations, so like all food poisoning allegations in sports, this will remain a mystery.
Make no mistake, teams take precautions against food poisoning on the road. Some make sure the first and second squads eat different meals and others prohibit their players from eating anything that is not prepared and served by the team. In the rare instances that a player gets food poisoning, proving that it as intentional is virtually impossible just as it is outside the sports world. With that in mind, here are the five most memorable food poisoning allegations — from the most possible to the absurd — in sports history.
5. Lamar Jackson (2020)
The silliest accusation on this list started after the Tennessee Titans upset the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens 28-12 in the 2020 AFC Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Social media trolls decided to blame the loss on Miss Carter's Kitchen, a West Baltimore soul food restaurant where quarterback and eventual league MVP Jackson and teammates had dined the night before. After the comments about the food became too much, owner Cia Carter responded on Instagram, saying "he's been eating it all year dummy." Hopefully, that put the issue to rest.
4. Warren Sapp (2003)
Sapp has been one of the most vocal athletes to speak out on the issue of food poisoning. He has claimed that his food was poisoned in 2003 before the NFC Championship Game matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles but did not say who or how. Either Sapp caught it before he ate it or played through it because Tampa Bay dominated the Eagles in a 27-10 win.
3. Kobe Bryant (2002)
The Los Angeles Lakers were in Sacramento to play the Kings in Game 2 in the Western Conference Finals, and Bryant woke with food poisoning after eating a room service meal of a bacon cheeseburger and slice of cheesecake. Bryant managed to score 22 points in a 96-90 loss, and the Lakers won the series in seven games. Whether the food poisoning was deliberate was never determined.
2. Michael Jordan (1997)
Jordan overcame whatever was ailing him to score 38 points as the Bulls beat the Jazz 90-88 at the Delta Center to take a 3-2 series lead in the NBA Finals. After the win was clinched, Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen's arms, and the game is remembered by that iconic image.
1. Oklahoma Sooners (1959)
The Sooners had lost four total games in seven seasons and entered the 1959 college football campaign ranked No. 2. They traveled to Chicago to open the season against Northwestern and were treated to dinner at the city's Chez Paree nightclub. Before the main course was served, players were violently throwing up in the bathroom and the parking lot. The team did not have a "Flu Game" moment either, as the Wildcats thrashed the Sooners 45-13 in the worst loss of head coach Bud Wilkinson's career. Many of the players believed they were systematically food poisoned, and some even speculated that the mafia even had a hand in it.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of @chicagobulls)