On June 10, 1997, Craig Fite was working a new job as an assistant manager at the Pizza Hut in Park City, Utah. Not long before the store’s 11 p.m. closing, a delivery order came in from the Marriott down the street.
One large, thin crust, extra pepperoni.
The next night was a critical Game 5 of a series that was tied at the time, 2-2. Now here was someone at the Marriott seeking a late night snack, and the guy from the hotel suggested it “might be one of the players.”
Fite lived in Utah but was a Bulls fan because of his devotion to Michael Jordan. He so loved MJ that he named his son after him. While nearly everyone else in Utah was rooting for the Jazz, Fite was all about Chicago.
“I had bets, wagers with everybody on the store with it,” Fite told “The Big Show” on 1280 The Zone in Salt Lake City.
The chance to cook for a Bull, any Bull, was enough for Fite to spring into action. He said he washed his hands, brushed the cooks aside and even cracked a joke.
“I will make the pizza because I don’t want any of you doing anything to it,” Fite said.
Little did Fite know that he would eventually be accused by Jordan and two others of delivering a poisoned pizza — now the most famous pizza in NBA history — that would nearly cause MJ to miss Game 5.
The story resurfaced in the ninth episode of “The Last Dance” during the retelling of the famed “flu game” where Jordan overcame sickness and weakness to score 38 points and lead the Bulls to a 90-88 victory. Chicago went on to win its fifth championship in six games.
In Jordan and his entourage’s telling, five guys from a local pizza place showed up with the pie, causing concern about tampering.
“Five guys delivering one pizza?” MJ’s trainer, Tim Grover said in the docu-series. “They’re all trying to look in. I take the pizza. I pay them. I put this pizza down. I say, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this pizza.’ ”
Jordan didn’t care. It was later revealed he even spit on the pizza to keep anyone else from grabbing a slice.
“I ate the pizza,” Jordan said. “All by myself. Nobody else ate the pizza. I wake up about 2:30 throwing up left and right … It really wasn’t the flu game. It was food poisoning.”
Now here was Fite on Monday, on local radio with Jake Scott and Gordon Monson, discussing a pizza he says he made 23 years ago and disputing what was broadcast on ESPN.
“That’s a bunch of crap,” Fite said. “Sorry, we were five creepy looking guys that the guy felt threatened? I guess you have to sell your book but it really wasn’t that exciting.”
Start with this, Fite said. It was just he and his delivery driver, not five men.
“There were two of us,” Fite said. “I didn’t even have that many people working [at the Pizza Hut].”
He said the pizza was meticulously made.
“I followed all the rules,” Fite said. “At the time I was trying to impress the store manager there.”
The two then drove over to the Marriott hoping that they might see a player in the lobby or the hallway. They had no idea the order was for MJ. Clad in their Pizza Hut uniforms, carrying a pizza and armed with a specific room number, Fite said they got through the police detail out front.
“As soon as you walk into the building you can smell the cigar smoke,” Fite said of the notoriously loose-ship Bulls. “And we get in on the elevator and go up to I think the second floor. As soon as that door opened it felt like you got punched in the face with cigar smoke.”
As they walked down the hall, Fite says a player (Fite curiously can’t remember who) spied him and said, “Oh hey, pizza.”
Fite said it was a certain room number (again, couldn’t recall).
“Oh, it’s for Mike,” the unidentified player said. “Leave it alone.”
Fite said he was now excited. MJ was going to get his pizza. He knocked on the door and Grover cracked it open, took the pizza, closed the door, came back and handed him $20.
“‘Hey, can I at least say hi to Mike?’” Fite said he said. “I mean, why not? It’s my one shot. The door kind of opens up a little more. Mike is sitting at the chair, he’s playing cards or whatever, raises his hand and says, ‘Thanks man.’ The guy looks at me and shuts the door.”
Fite thought that was that until the next night when Jordan was sick. He said speculation centered at the time on food poisoning, and a Pizza Hut district manager even called him about the possibility the now-famous pizza was it.
“It’s a thin crust pepperoni pizza,” Fite said. “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.”
Fite didn’t care too much. MJ and the Bulls won the title. His favorite team was the champion, he won all his bets, and he (briefly) got to meet Michael Jordan.
Now he’s accused of poisoning the guy.
Fite did dispel one rumor: that Jordan hopped a flight to Vegas for a night of gambling and partying before what some conspiracy theorists call “the hangover game” not the “flu game.” He confirms that MJ was in Park City, at least at about 11 p.m.
The pizza scandal aside, Fite still has common ground with MJ. He blames management for blowing up the Bulls after the 1997-98 championship and swore off his Bulls fandom.
“Jerry Krause really pissed me off when he dumped the thing,” Fite said.
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