SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Donovan Mitchell said he still plans on flying with the Utah Jazz despite missing the team’s last road trip after the team’s initial plane headed for Memphis had to make an emergency landing due to a bird strike.
On Tuesday, the team’s midday flight suffered significant damage to the nose and left engine after hitting a flock of birds shortly after takeoff.
Though the guard felt he needed time away from the team after the incident, he recognizes his responsibilities to the team.
“I have a job to do,” Mitchell said. “I understand that that comes with the job. I took the time that I needed to mentally get myself in a good place. I’ll be fine come Sunday.”
Mitchell’s fear of flying dates back to well before his time with the Jazz when he spoke openly about his phobia during a predraft interview in Sacramento.
“I just needed to take that time because it just wasn’t sitting right with me to go on the trip,” Mitchell said. “My teammates and my coaches and everybody respected that and I appreciate the support.”
Mitchell Texted Family While Plane Was Flying
Though the Jazz flight ultimately landed safely, Jazz players and coaches weren’t sure that would be the case after the initial scare.
Mitchell was one of many players who attempted to reach his family from the air if the team’s flight was unable to return to the ground intact.
“I texted my mom, my dad, my sister just let them know, this could be it,” Mitchell said. “That’s a scary thought, saying I love you guys, literally writing what could have been your last words.”
The Jazz guard isn’t the only person in professional sports to have a known fear of flying. Former Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden notoriously avoided flying throughout his career, preferring to drive to his destination between games. Unfortunately, it’s a luxury not afforded to Mitchell.
“I can’t pull a John Madden and drive everywhere, as much as I would love to, I can’t,” the guard said. “I understand I’ve got to [fly] and I’ll calm down and I’ll be good.”
The Jazz have back-to-back home games against the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic before flying to Dallas on Sunday.