The 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, on the backs of recording another first place finish in their division and conference, repeated as NBA champions. The Bulls would go on to beat the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals, their fifth title in seven years. The team was led by Michael Jordan, rebound ace Dennis Rodman and perennial all star small forward Scottie Pippen. Other notable players on the club's roster that year were clutch-specialist Croatian Toni Kukoc, and sharp-shooting point guard Steve Kerr. The Bulls finished with a 69-13 record, just missing out on becoming the first team in NBA history to have back-to-back 70 wins seasons.
Game 5, often referred to as "The Flu Game", was one of Michael Jordan's most memorable. Just 24 hours earlier, on June 10, 1997, Michael Jordan woke up nauseated and sweating profusely. He hardly had the strength to sit up in bed and was diagnosed with a stomach virus or food poisoning. The Bulls trainers told Jordan that there was no way he could play in the game. The Jazz had just won two in a row to tie the series, and Chicago needed their leader in this critical swing game. Against all odds, Jordan rose from bed at 3:00 p.m., just in time for the 6:00 tip-off at the Delta Center.
Jordan was visibly weak and pale as he stepped onto the court for Game Five. At first, he displayed no energy whatsoever, and John Stockton, along with reigning MVP Karl Malone, quickly led the Jazz to a 16-point lead. But in the second quarter, Jordan started to sink shots despite lacking his usual explosive speed and hardly being able to concentrate. He scored 17 points in the quarter as the Bulls hit the front before halftime.
Luc Longley and Scottie Pippen did their best to keep the Bulls in the game while Jordan was fatigued again in the third. But Jordan turned it on again, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a clutch rebound and three-point shot with the game tied and under a minute left that put the Bulls up by three points. Chicago held on for a narrow victory.
Jordan finished the game with 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block. Malone was the highest-scoring Jazz player with 19 points but suffered from some dreadful shooting. Jordan stayed on the court for 44 minutes, resting for only four minutes while being perpetually at the brink of fainting. With only a few seconds remaining and the game finally at hand, Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen's arms.
Michael Jordan was not fully recovered from the flu, but was feeling much better and led the Bulls with 39 points. In the third quarter Michael Jordan dunked after a steal, bringing the crowd to its feet. The Bulls trailed by 9 points early in the fourth quarter but went on a 10-0 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes when Steve Kerr hit a 3-pointer, but the Jazz would regain the lead. In the final minutes, Jordan's fadeaway on the baseline put the Bulls up by 3, before Bryon Russell hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 86-86. The two teams would fail to score on their next possessions. With 28 seconds left after Shandon Anderson missed a reverse layup, the Jazz expected Jordan to take the final shot. Instead, Jordan passed off to Steve Kerr, who hit a shot with 5 seconds left to send the United Center crowd into a frenzy. The Jazz looked for one final shot to stay alive, but Scottie Pippen made a massive defensive play as he knocked away Bryon Russell's inbound pass intended for Shandon Anderson and was able to pass the ball over to Toni Kukoc, who dunked the final 2 points of the game to bring the Finals to an end. Afterwards, Jordan was named the NBA Finals MVP.