Much has been said about game five of the 1997 NBA Finals, more widely known as Michael Jordan‘s “Flu Game,” in which he logged 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one block to propel the Chicago Bulls to a 90 to 88 victory over the Utah Jazz. In the final episode of The Last Dance, Jordan discussed the iconic outing and his flu-like symptoms, suggesting he was a victim of food poisoning from a pizza he ate the night before.
Since the airing of The Last Dance, the man who made the pizza in question has come forward to shed light on the topic. Craig Fite, an assistant manager at a Pizza Hut in Park City, Utah, recently called in to The Big Show on 1280 The Zone in Salt Lake City to rebuff the food poisoning theory.
Fite began be disclosing that he was a big fan of Jordan and the Bulls, so much so that he wanted to make the pizza himself and deliver it to the team’s hotel. As the story goes, five guys delivered the pizza to Jordan, although Fite insists it was just him and another part time employee.
“The crap story the guy said, that there was five people, there was two of us — and I didn’t even have that many people working at the time at the store — but there was two of us,” Fite said. “I followed all the rules. At the time I was trying to impress the store manager there. I remember saying this: ‘I will make the pizza, because I don’t want any of you doing anything to it.’ And then I told the driver, you’re going to take me there.”
As for the pizza, he said it was a thin crust pepperoni pizza. “It’s tough to get food poisoning off a pizza unless of course you add something to it, but that didn’t happen because sure as heck it didn’t leave my hands,” he went on to add.
To this day, Fite insists Jordan must have been feeling under the weather due to other reasons. You can hear his firsthand account of the “Flu Game” pizza by pressing play below.
MLBPA rejects league’s demand for additional salary concessions – Sportsnet.ca
NEW YORK — Baseball players reaffirmed their stance for full prorated pay, leaving a huge gap with teams that could scuttle plans to start the coronavirus-delayed season around the Fourth of July and may leave owners focusing on a schedule as short as 50 games.
More than 100 players, including the union’s executive board, held a two-hour digital meeting with officials of the Major League Baseball Players Association on Thursday, a day after the union’s offer was rejected by Major League Baseball.
“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless players negotiate salary concessions,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon. This threat came in response to an association proposal aimed at charting a path forward.”
“Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless players agree to further salary reductions,” Clark added.
Players originally were set to earn about $4 billion in 2020 salaries, exclusive of guaranteed money such as signing bonuses, termination pay and option buyouts. The union’s plan would cut that to around $2.8 billion and management to approximately $1.2 billion-plus a $200 million bonus pool if the post-season is completed.
MLB last week proposed an 82-game season with an additional sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave a player at the $563,500 minimum with 47% of his original salary and top stars Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole at less than 22% of the $36 million they had been set to earn.
Players countered Sunday with a plan for a 114-game regular season with no pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries they agreed to on March 26. That would leave each player with about 70 per cent of his original pay.
MLB rejected that Wednesday, when Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer informing him “we do not have any reason to believe that a negotiated solution for an 82-game season is possible.”
“Nonetheless, the commissioner is committed to playing baseball in 2020,” Halem said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “He has started discussions with ownership about staging a shorter season without fans.”
Management officials have said they are considering a slate of perhaps 50 games or fewer. There has not been a schedule averaging fewer than 82 games per team since 1879.
“The overwhelming consensus of the board is that players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well,” Clark said in a statement. “The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”
Baseball’s March 26 deal allows games if there are no government restrictions on playing in front of fans and no relevant travel limitations. The sides agreed to “discuss in good faith” the economic feasibility of playing in empty ballparks, which appears to be the likely option.
MLB says that without fans it would average a loss of $640,000 for each additional game played. The union disputes the teams’ financial figures.
Teams also worry about a second wave of the new coronavirus this fall and don’t want to play past October, fearing $787 million in broadcast revenue for the post-season could be lost. MLB proposed expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to 14, which would generate additional broadcast rights to sell, and players have offered to guarantee the larger playoffs for both 2020 and 2021.
While baseball has reverted to the economic bickering that led to eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the NBA announced plans Thursday to resume its regular season with 22 teams on July 31, the NHL is moving ahead with plans for an expanded Stanley Cup playoffs this summer and MLS is planning to have teams return with a tournament in July.
“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, players want nothing more than to get back to work,” Clark said. “But we cannot do this alone.”
TFC's Bradley on Trump: We have a president who is completely empty – TSN
Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley pulled no punches Thursday, lamenting the “zero leadership” south of the border as the U.S. is ravaged by racial unrest.
The longtime U.S. skipper took square aim at president Donald Trump.
“We have a president who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone in his body,” Bradley told a media conference call.
“There’s no leadership. There’s no leadership from the president, there’s no leadership from the Republican senators who have sat back and been totally complicit in everything he’s done for the last 3 1/2 years.”
Bradley urged his fellow Americans to speak with their ballot in November, saying it was “impossible to overstate” the importance of the coming election.
“I just hope that people are able to go to the polls in November and think about more than just what is good for them, more than what is good for their own status, their own business, their own tax return. I hope that people can go to the polls and understand that in so many ways, the future of our country and the future of our democracy is at stake.
“We need as many people as possible to understand that at a real level, to think about what four more years with Trump as president, what that would mean, how terrible that would be for so many people.”
Referencing racial inequality and social injustice, Bradley added: “If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”
The 32-year-old Bradley has run through the gamut of emotions while watching the violence and unrest unfold in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while three police officers restrained him — one with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“I’m angry, I’m horrified, I’m sad and I’m determined to do anything and everything I can to try to be a part of the fix,” he said. “Because it has to end. And we all have to be part of that fix.”
He acknowledged that while he has much to learn on the issues, politicians, policy-makers and businesses have to be held accountable.
“My man Mike is a as real as they come. Nothing but the truth here,” teammate Joze Altidore tweeted.
Bradley has criticized Trump before. In January 2017, he said he was “sad and embarrassed” by Trump’s travel ban aimed at citizens of predominantly Muslim countries.
The TFC captain, while happy to see the MLS labour impasse over, noted there had been “some real difficult moments along the way.” That included a threat of a lockout from the league.
Such tactics “did not sit well with the players,” he said.
He also said there had been a frustrating absence of dialogue right from the beginning of talks, which he acknowledged played out against an unprecedented global threat.
“This, at a certain point for me, was about what’s right and what’s wrong in the middle of the pandemic. And the way to treat people and the way that you look after people. I kept coming back to that idea. That we have all put so much into growing the game in North America, at all levels — ownership, league office, executives coaches, players, fans.
“Everybody is important to what we’re trying to do. To try to dismiss any of the entities that I just named would be short-sighted and disrespectful because the game is about everybody.”
He said he would have loved to have seen everyone get on the same page early on and find a way “to cut through the (bull).”
“To just say ‘This is where we are right now. Nobody has a playbook. Nobody has any answers but how are we going to come out better and stronger from all of this? … I think conversations would have carried so much more weight and I think we would have been able to avoid so much of the way certain things played out.”
Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle on Nov 10. His rehab over, he was part of a small group training session Thursday.
“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’m continuing to make progress … At this point physically I feel really good. My ankle feels really good. And now it’s just about training. Getting back into real training in a way that now prepares me for games.”
Still, he said injuries are an issue in the league’s return to play given the time that has passed since the league suspended play March 12.
“That is a big concern,” he said. “And it’s not a big concern only amongst players. I know that has been a real topic amongst coaches and sports science staff and medical staff.”
While teams will do everything possible to get the players ready, a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament that awaits teams won’t help injury fears, he said.
“That certainly is a big question. Maybe the biggest question when you get past the initial health and safety stuff of COVID, among players and coaches and technical staff,” he said.
“How are we going to give ourselves the best chance to win, but also do it in a way where guys are at their highest level both technically and physically”
Biggest winners and losers in NBA’s return-to-play plan – Sportsnet.ca
Like a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, the NBA is going to Disney World!
The only difference being instead for one day with a celebratory parade, this will be for three months playing inside empty gyms without anyone cheering as 22 teams complete the rest of the 2019-20 season and hopefully don’t catch the novel coronavirus in the process.
Look, a return-to-play plan is exciting news and should provide hope that we can return to normalcy sooner than later. On the flip side, are the many valid health and safety concerns that are involved in trying to restart a professional sports league amid a pandemic.
So while you can look at the NBA’s announcement Thursday afternoon as a positive, know that everything isn’t just peachy keen just yet and there are still problems that need to be worked out.
As such, here’s a rundown of the biggest winners and losers from the NBA’s approved return-to-play plan.
It doesn’t take much to understand the No. 1 driving factor behind the NBA’s desperate attempt to return.
As Sam Amick of The Athletic reported about a month ago, the NBA would stand to lose about $900 million in television revenue if there is no 2020 post-season.
That’s a problem that would appear to have disappeared, and now with the added bonus of possible play-in games for the No. 8 seed thrown into the mix, that’s even more games that could be marketed as playoff contests.
Like the “First Four” in the NCAA Tournament, the NBA could promote these play-in game — giving clubs the privilege of being destroyed by the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers — as the new first round of the playoffs and charge networks premium prices for broadcast rights.
So when we all tune back in for the NBA while we’re having a blast again, do keep in mind that the only reason why this is happening is because the NBA needed to find a way to stop hemorrhaging money.
The Toronto Raptors and other East contenders
One of the most interesting things around the talk about the NBA’s return-to-play plan was rumblings of drastic format changes.
Ideas such as a World Cup-style group stage or a No. 1-through-16 bracket got people talking and thinking about fun hypotheticals where Eastern Conference teams square off against Western Conference teams during the entire post-season, instead of just in the Finals.
Given the extreme nature of the times we’re living in, the NBA could’ve tried out new formats relatively risk-free because anything that happens during this “COVID Cup” season will likely come associated with the dreaded asterisk due to how weird everything is.
Instead, the NBA went conservative in its approach, opting for the traditional conference-based brackets with four best-of-seven rounds.
Boring this may be, but if you’re the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics or Bucks, or any other Eastern Conference team that believes themselves a legitimate contender, then going with the old favourite here must have you ecstatic.
No doubt there are tough battles to be had in the Eastern Conference, but compared to the wolves out West even outside of the playoff picture right now — like the Portland Trail Blazers or New Orleans Pelicans, let alone the Memphis Grizzlies or Dallas Mavericks in the Nos. 7 and 8 at the moment — the likes of the Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets look like lost puppies by comparison.
In general, the quality of competition is just a notch or two higher in the Western Conference, and for Eastern Conference teams to avoid that, if even a little, is a big advantage as it opens up a slightly easier path to the Conference Finals for some teams and certainly for the Nos. 1 and 2 Bucks and Raptors.
The Golden State Warriors and the rest of the league’s scrubs
Congratulations to the Dubs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and the rest of the NBA’s also-ran group. You did it!
You didn’t get into the bubble!
Not only does that mean you don’t have to take any unnecessary risks by attempting to play pro basketball in the midst of a global pandemic, you also get to preserve those sweet, sweet lottery odds.
If you’re among the true scrubs of the league – such as the basement-dwelling Warriors and Cavaliers – knowing you didn’t make it in has to have you breathing a sigh of relief as this means you can dedicate more time toward the dates that actually matter to you: Aug. 25 and Oct. 15, when the NBA draft lottery and NBA draft, respectively, have been rescheduled.
There’s lots of elite talent at the top of the board to be had, such as Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, centre James Wiseman — who was suspended by the NCAA while at Memphis but left and declared for the draft — and LaMelo Ball who took over in Australia’s NBL for the Illawarra Hawks.
Those are the prizes available for the NBA’s bottom-feeders, and the fact they don’t have to play anymore and can still keep their strong odds while others can weaken theirs further is just icing on the cake.
The Washington Wizards
And on the topic of bad NBA teams, the Washington Wizards and their sterling 24-40 record were invited into the bubble.
Why were they invited, you might be asking? Well, according to the NBA’s format, teams within at least 6.0 games back of the No. 8 seed qualify. And the Wizards are 5.5 games back of the 30-35, No. 8 seeded Orlando Magic.
OK, that’s cool.
Still doesn’t take away the fact the Wizards are among the worst teams in the league, with the 24th-ranked net rating as of the time of the suspension and the worst defence.
The Wizards shouldn’t have been included in this, but perhaps because Bradley Beal is a great player and John Wall is likely to make his return in this resumption that was reason enough to let them in?
So way to go Washington. We’ll be on the lookout for that participation banner hanging in the rafters at some point.
Everyone in the bubble
No matter how much you test, no matter how often you wear a mask, no matter how much you attempt to social distance, everyone within this NBA bubble is at risk – and that includes Mickey Mouse.
So, to everyone that will have to go to this bubble to finish off the season – including players, coaches, general managers, front office executives, public relations staff, janitorial staff, security, medical staff, media and broadcasters, service staff within Disney World that manage and maintain hotels and restaurants, etc. – here’s hoping everything stays safe and there are no cases to be found of COVID-19.
But with over 60,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the state – and over 58,000 being Florida residents – it’s hard not to think of the worst-case scenario coming to pass.
If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.
Ultimately, the NBA weighed the risk/reward in favour of returning, but it’s worth considering what would happen if/when someone tests positive in the bubble.
The Memphis Grizzlies
Before the NBA suspended its season, the Grizzlies were rolling.
Winners of four of their last six games with a 3.5 game cushion over their next closest rivals for the No. 8 spot in the West and with a rookie phenom in Ja Morant growing ever more comfortable and confident in his abilities, the Grizzlies were looking to finish their final 17-game stretch with a flourish and carry all that momentum into the post-season.
Now, though, after what will be a nearly five-month hiatus before play resumes, you have to wonder if a team that young will be able to just turn it on again?
In particular, with youngsters Morant, Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr., it’s hard not to think of all the daily learnings that were halted for these three who look to make up Memphis’ core moving forward.
Youth can be a gift, but being able to ramp up again after a months-long hiatus may be something veterans with more experience would be able to handle better.
The Portland Trail Blazers
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Board of Governors meeting saw the league vote 29-1 in favour of passing the 22-team return-to-play plan with the lone dissenting voice coming from the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers, according to Wojnarowski, chose to vote “No” as they were hoping for more innovative competition formats as reflected by feedback from some of the team’s players.
Sitting 3.5 games back of No. 8 Memphis, the Blazers do appear to be in a good situation to make the playoffs, especially as they figure to be healthier than before with the return of key centre Jusuf Nurkic.
But maybe getting into a situation where you participate in a play-in tournament just for the eighth seed is very different than a more even format, such as a group stage.
What’s done is done now, and though it may seem harmless to back your players on a vote that you knew wasn’t going to your way, not standing united with the commissioner and the rest of league will always have the potential to come around to bite you.
Richard Deitsch and Donnovan Bennett host a podcast about how COVID-19 is impacting sports around the world. They talk to experts, athletes and personalities, offering a window into the lives of people we normally root for in entirely different ways.
The Canadian men’s basketball team
With the dates being what they are and word from the NBA that the 2020-21 season would likely start Dec. 1, that throws a pretty large wrench into Canada Basketball’s plan to be fully loaded for the 2021 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria, B.C.
Right now, the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments are scheduled for June 29 to July 4, dates that would, given a December opening, likely still see the NBA in the midst of its playoffs where a lot of Canada’s top basketball talent could be participating.
But even if Canada should make it out of the OQT, the July 23 to Aug. 8 dates for Tokyo 2021 could still clash with the NBA season.
Once again, it looks like Canada Basketball is stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to the Olympics and its men’s team. There’s always 2024, right?
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