SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. — Donovan Mitchell, 24, gave a candid, virtual interview on Friday with NBA Action to members of the media regarding Tuesday’s team charter flight emergency landing. The plane took off from Salt Lake International Airport and had to turn around within the initial climbing phase of the flight when a flock of birds dented and bloodied the plane affecting an engine. An albeit premature yet controlled landing resulted in no injuries but many shaken up passengers the all-star guard #45 Mitchell.
Mitchell, who has been in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for three years, punctuated his recounting of the events with explicit language as he shared his fear of flying. “I hate flying in general,” Mitchell said. “I texted my mom, my sister and my dad and said I love you guys.” He went on, “This could be it. Just that thought was one of the scariest feelings I’ve ever had in my life. It really puts life and everything in perspective.”
Bird strikes in Salt Lake City are not as surprising to airport staff as to airplane passengers. Mitigation measures are continuous as they team up with wildlife resources groups to manage adjacent natural water foul habitation and appease all stakeholders.
Mitchell said, “You gotta give the pilots and the flight attendants credit because they were really calm and professional in how they handled the situation.”
The flight’s destination was Memphis, Tennessee for Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies. Everyone deplaned in an orderly fashion and reboarded a different aircraft a few hours later destined for Memphis, everyone, that is, except Mitchell. He wasn’t ready to just jump on the next flight and stayed in Salt Lake City while the rest of the team not only made it to the game on time the following day but won 117 to 114. The Jazz beat the Grizzlies again the next night 126 to 110.
Mitchell has since flown to away games to rejoin his team as it’s currently in an eight-game winning streak beginning with the Toronto Raptors and ending with the Chicago Bulls.
Mitchell’s absence was initially explained by team representatives as him taking some ‘personal time.’ Mental health awareness is literally and figuratively a talking point of more and more professional league sports administrators, coaches, and athletes. He took a mental health break, was supported by his teammates and management, and got back in the game.
In the days following his harrowing ordeal, his introspection and honesty has made Mitchell the personification of a slam dunk in the eyes of many Utahns.