Isiah Thomas’ “Ankle Game” Vs. Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” (Video)

Each year, the NBA playoffs produce memorable moments.

HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: When the stakes were highest, “Zeke” and “MJ” answered the bell- who was better?

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It was game six of the 1988 NBA Finals and the Detroit Pistons were one game away from winning the title. Down 56-48 in the start of the third, Thomas started to go off, scoring 14 straight points. But on an assist to a streaking Joe Dumars, Thomas landed awkwardly on Michael Cooper’s foot and rolled his ankle.

After leaving the game briefly, Thomas decided to come back into the game. “When I sprained my ankle, I was so angry because all of the hard work I had put in, all the dedication,I remember laying on the floor seeing my dream slip through my hands. If you’re not strong enough mentally to overcome, and you cant persevere, you’ll fall and be like everybody else in the league.”

By the end of the quarter, he had hit 11 of 13 shots from the floor for 25 points, setting an NBA Finals record for points in a quarter. He had single-handedly given his team an 81-79 lead. He finished the night with a jammed left pinkie, a poked eye, a scratched face, a ballooned ankle, 43 points, 8 assists and 6 steals.

Here’s Zeke in action:

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This week it came to light, thanks to Jordan’s former trainer Tim Grover, that MJ’s “Flu Game” against the Jazz in game 5 of the 1997 Finals was the result of Jordan eating a pizza that had been laced with something and not just symptoms from the common flu.

“He was poisoned for the ‘flu game.’ Everyone called it the flu game, but we sat there. We were in the room.”

Jordan was sitting his his hotel room and got hungry, but couldn’t find anywhere to eat. Grover said at the time, the hotel where they were staying was one of few in Park City, so people knew where they were.

He was poisoned for the ‘flu game.’ Everyone called it the flu game, but we sat there. We were in the room.–Tim GroverWhen they ordered the pizza, five people came to the door to deliver it and Grover’s gut feeling said something wasn’t right.

“I take the pizza and tell them: ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this … I’ve just got a bad feeling about this,'” Grover said, recounting the night.

At around 2 a.m. Jordan called Grover to his room and he immediately said it was poisoning, not the flu.

The Bulls’ trainers told Jordan that there was no way he could play the next day. The Jazz had just won Games 3 & 4 to tie the series at 2 wins apiece. Jordan finished with 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block, including a clutch three point shot with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls the victory. That shot created the unforgettable image of Scottie Pippen helping a visibly weakened Jordan to the bench.

Which performance do you have more respect for- Isiah’s “Ankle Game” or Jordan’s “Flu Game”?

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I’ve been a freelance journalist since 2000 and have had my work published via AskMen, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Busted Coverage, and Autotrader. I’ve done stand-up comedy. I'm a dad, youth soccer coach, and team statistician for the oldest indoor football team in the world, the Omaha Beef. I own a design agency in Omaha, NE called little guy design. I’ve married six couples in 10 years and my Marriage to Still Married ratio is 6:6. I always say, it isn’t so much about the “love,” as it is the tasteless jokes that became vows. I started the I-80 Sports Blog to have all the work I've published located in one place and to write about things I want to write about. I don't take anything too seriously and it is a real time saver.