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Ballboy who got Jordan’s shoes after “flu game” tells his story

Nov 11, 2013, 6:00 PM EDT

Michael Jordan Scottie Pippen Flu Game

In a week, the shoes that Michael Jordan wore during the legendary “flu game” — Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, when a Jordan on the verge of passing out, more likely due to food poisoning, led the Bulls to a key win — will go up for auction.

After the game, Jordan gave the shoes to a Utah Jazz ballboy named Preston Truman, who kept the shoes in a safe deposit box all these years but has decided to sell them now.

He also decided to tell his story to the Salt Lake Tribune (via Lang at All Ball at

He was one of the first in the building to know that Jordan would play that night when, as Bulls coach Phil Jackson gathered the team to go onto the court, Jordan finally got up and put on his jersey. He watched Jordan struggle back to the bench during timeouts; he ran Jordan a spoon for three small cups of applesauce at halftime; he heard Jordan tell doctors “F— no” when they suggested he sit out for a while.

Truman’s parents would later tease him because the broadcast showed him — a lifelong Jazz fan — patting MJ on the shoulder after he wrapped him in a towel.

When Jordan hit the clinching shot and leaned into Scottie Pippen’s arms, barely able to stand, Truman estimates he was 5 feet away.

You need to read the entire story. Truman had his eye on those shoes and for the three middle games in that series in Utah he brought Jordan applesauce, did whatever he could to curry Jordan’s favor.

The story also says Jordan had food poisoning, not the flu. Which is what trainer Tim Grover has said for years.

In the end, all of Truman’s work paid off with a signed pair of shoes (there are photos to prove Jordan gave the kid the shoes). And if you have six digits or so of disposable income, the shoes can now be yours.

  1. antistratfordian - Nov 11, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    “The story also says Jordan had food poisoning, not the flu. Which is what trainer Tim Grover has said for years.”

    Well even at the time he wasn’t reported as having “the flu” – it was always “flu-like symptoms” – but people are people so it became known as “The Flu Game.”

    I always thought it was either food poisoning or he was hungover. Either way, he was embellishing his fatigue a little bit in that game during timeouts.

    • belleby123 - Nov 11, 2013 at 7:24 PM

      That’s just sad. It’s one of those sports moments that’s still talked about decades later, and you have to dis MJ for it. I can’t blame you. “I remember when LeBron…” has no end to that sentence, so I see why you feel bad.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:09 PM

        Well I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before. Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy had an on-air conversation talking about this…

        JVG: I’m saying he wasn’t as sick as maybe portrayed
        JACKSON: I agree, I think he worked the crowd

        I even thought my hero MJ was exaggerating a little bit as I was watching that game. I was kind of embarrassed by it being such a huge fan of his. And everyone I was in the room with thought the same thing! We’re not all crazy.

      • belleby123 - Nov 12, 2013 at 8:15 AM

        Right, the best basketball player in the history of the universe has some need to exaggerate such a thing? What would that need be? Wouldn’t be more likely that you have to say something negative about MJ because nobody will ever talk about LeBron in the same tone? Oh, and you seem to skip the part where you tell us about that legendary LeBron moment. Game over.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 12, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        How foolish of me. How dare I question Mount Jordan!? He never missed a game winner. He never lost a game. He never told a lie. His sock sweat cured cancer. The Jordan Myth is a powerful one – up there with George Washington’s cherry tree.

        First off, I’d like you to consider how I used to get attacked in the past (as recently as 2012) just by suggesting that Jordan didn’t actually have influenza in that game – that it was probably something else and not the flu. People thought THAT was an attack on MJ! They accused me of downplaying his effort because of my known support for LeBron (as if it’s any easier to play if you’re hungover or have food poisoning). Then Tim Grover comes out about 15 years after the fact and says it wasn’t the fu – and now I get zero criticism over that. That’s my career as antistratfordian in a nutshell – oft criticized, called all manner of ridiculous things by simpletons, then eventually proven right.

        Secondly, Jordan was my hero and inspiration. At the time you would’ve been hard pressed to find a bigger Jordan fan. So I absolutely never wanted to have to say that I thought he was playing it up in that game – but that’s how I saw it, so that’s what I’m going to say. I said it then while watching that game live, and I’m still saying it now and I will keep saying it because I believe it is true. And we know that others saw it that same way – this is not a new topic of conversation, by any means – and you give me far too much credit if you think I’m the main proponent.

        So it would be wrong for people to assume that everyone had the exact same take on that game. Even some of Jordan’s biggest fans will give you a little wink about it. It’s important for a proper accounting of history that people like me speak up, even knowing that they might get shouted down, otherwise recorded history will be even less accurate.

        So yes, Michael Jordan was human! He really was! You’re going to have to trust me on this one.

      • belleby123 - Nov 13, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        Okay, I’ll ask the question again: what possible motivation would Jordan have for exaggerating his condition? Did you fail to comprehend this question the first two times I asked it? And you’re talking about simpletons. You’re just a head case.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 14, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        That’s obvious. It’s the same reason ANY player exaggerates their injuries in a game – the more hurt/sick you are while still playing well, the more impressive it is.

        But guys playing with the “flu” always play well, haven’t you noticed? It’s kind of a joke now.

        In any case, I don’t recall if I mentioned this before, but MJ has a history of exaggerating his injuries a little bit… falling to the floor, clutching a limb, getting carried off the floor by teammates, coming back minutes later completely fine, etc.

      • belleby123 - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:01 PM

        This is ironic, because it reminds me of the right wing nut bags that say Obama “lied” when he said “if you like your plan you can keep your plan”. I say, what possible motive would he have to lie for something that is so easy to disprove? And of course there is no answer. But honestly, saying that MJ needed to exaggerate something to appear more impressive is like saying God exaggerated resting on the seventh day. MJ exaggerating to appear more impressive–thanks a lot, I just peed myself from laughing.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:11 PM

        Well that’s politics. It was Obama’s job to sell that and he probably believed it to be completely true at the time, but it’s impossible to predict the future when it comes to how a policy will unfold.

        MJ didn’t NEED to exaggerate. He just did. It’s human nature. I think any player would’ve exaggerated in the same situation (and they do). You can’t help but not to. We know how Willis Reed was immortalized for his injury situation in the finals and every player would like a moment like that in their legacy if they can get it. Jordan got it.

        And Jordan was a person, not a God. Would God go to the scorers table each quarter to check his stats so he can make sure to keep putting up triple doubles? No. But Jordan did that, because he’s human (obviously).

      • belleby123 - Nov 16, 2013 at 10:00 PM

        You haven’t even come close to sounding the least bit credible here.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 17, 2013 at 12:16 AM

        Yeah, but you’re a little slow so how would you even know? You don’t even know simple, basic information.

      • belleby123 - Nov 17, 2013 at 7:50 AM

        I’m not going to turn this into a flame war. You can wallow in the mud as much as you want.

  2. ashutto20 - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:15 PM

    Man its times like this I wish I had $$$$$

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