Utah’s NBA All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell says he’s ready to take to the skies with Jazz teammates again despite being shaken by an in-flight emergency on a team charter this week.
“I know I have a job to do,” Mitchell said in a virtual media availability on Friday. “I understand that (flying) comes with the job.”
But he has never been a fan of flying, and that fear was exacerbated on Tuesday when the Jazz’s charter flight to Memphis hit a flock of birds shortly after takeoff and had to return to Salt Lake City for an emergency landing.
Donovan said an engine failure and fire created a “boom” on board, the plane tilting to one side.
“There was a point where you just felt like this could be it — and the fact that it’s out of your control,” said the 24-year-old said Mitchell, who sent text messages to his sister and parents to tell them that he loved them.
Mitchell, who leads the league-leading Jazz in scoring with 25.7 points per game, wasn’t among the Jazz players and staff who boarded a different plane to head to Memphis, but he said he would “be fine” on Sunday when they fly to Dallas for a Monday clash with the Mavericks.
“I took the time that I needed to kind of just mentally get myself in a good place,” he said.
“I just needed to take that time, because it wasn’t sitting right for me to go on the trip. My teammates and my coaches respected that, and I appreciate the support. But I understand that I have a job to do.”
US sports teams routinely criss-cross the country by air, and Mitchell had spoken before of having to overcome his fear of flying.
“Some things are just bigger than the game of basketball, and that right there was it for me,” he said. “Everybody kind of has their different things. Mine happens to be flying.”