Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell said he won't let his fear of flying stop him from traveling with his teammates after their plane was forced to make an emergency landing earlier this week.
The Jazz had just taken off on a flight to Memphis when their plane hit a flock of birds, causing an engine fire and rattling the passengers. Mitchell opted to remain in Salt Lake City following the emergency landing to process the event while the rest of the team continued on a few hours later.
Mitchell explained his mindset to reporters on Friday:
"I know I have a job to do I understand that [flying] comes with the job. I took the time that I needed to kind of just mentally get myself in a good place. I'll be fine come Sunday when we fly out, but I just needed that time mentally. It was just a full day for me—like, 'I can't make that trip,' not for a game. Some things are just bigger than the game of basketball, and that right there was it for me. Everybody kind of has their different things. Mine happens to be [fear of] flying.
"I just needed to take that time, because it wasn't feeling [and] 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. I can't pull a John Madden and drive everywhere. As much as I would love to, I can't. I understand I've got to [fly]. I've calmed down, and I'll be good—should be good, at least, I think—for the rest of the season."
The Jazz are scheduled to hit the road for a game at the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.
Descriptions of Utah's plane colliding with the birds from Jazz players aboard the flight Tuesday explain how terrifying the situation was. While the incident took seconds, cabin members said they went at least 10 minutes without any information from the cockpit as the plane continued to experience turbulence.
During that uncertainty, Mitchell said he texted his parents and sister to let them know about the situation.
The All-Star hasn't been shy about his fear of flying in the past. It's understandable he would want some additional time to process the traumatic experience. He does not want to let that fear dictate the rest of his season.
However for Mitchell, getting back on another flight a few hours later was a major ask.
"There was a point where you just felt like this could be it—and the fact that it's out of your control," the 24-year-old said. "You're kind of just watching it all go down, and you really don't know what's going to happen next. Telling everybody that you love them, and you don't know if it's the last time that you're going to be able to say that, really puts life and everything into perspective for you."