SALT LAKE CITY — During a virtual interview Friday, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell spoke out about his fear of flying, which was magnified for him Tuesday when the team's charter plane to Memphis had to make an emergency landing due to a bird strike.
Mitchell was aboard Delta flight 8944 — a chartered plane taking the team to face the Memphis Grizzlies — when it struck a flock of birds as it was taking off from Salt Lake City International Airport around 1 p.m. Tuesday.
"I know I have a job to do," Mitchell said Friday. "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."
Tuesday's collision resulted in the plane's left jet engine failing and catching fire, and the pilot made an emergency landing back at the airport without incident. No injuries were reported (except for the birds).
Mitchell did not board the replacement flight and missed Wednesday's game, saying he needed time to process what happened.
"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," he said.
[Editor's Note: The Donovan Mitchell quotes in this article are presented as transcribed by ESPN.]