The Utah Jazz crew were looking forward to business as usual when they boarded their charter flight at Salt Lake City International Airport this past Tuesday. They were looking forward to improving their winning streak to seven in a road matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Moments into the journey though, their plane hit a flock of birds which resulted in a fire in at least one of the engines. The flight headed back immediately and the pilots were able to land it safely, but that didn't reduce the trauma that the people onboard experienced.
The Utah Jazz were able to travel to Memphis on another flight much later than originally scheduled and even beat the Grizzlies in a close game on Wednesday. But the harrowing incident still weighed on the minds of the players.
Utah Jazz players recall bird strike incident
"Sounded like there was an explosion. Plane started to bounce and tilt to the left. People in the back said they saw flames. ... Altitude started to drop a bit. ... Nobody knew what happened, we were in shock. ... It felt like the plane was breaking apart in midair."
Conley was able to shake off the incident and lead the Utah Jazz's cause against the Memphis Grizzlies, recording 26 points, seven assists and four steals.
One Utah Jazz player who wasn't able to shake off the incident was Donovan Mitchell. The two-time All-Star didn't travel with the team to Memphis on the follow-up flight after the incident. His teammate Jordan Clarkson explained Mitchell's decision, saying he fully understood it.
Clarkson then went on to give his own account of the incident.
"The whole plane just started shaking," Clarkson said. "It's definitely something that is an experience we're happy we're able to tell. A lot of us came to a point where it was like, 'This might be over for us.' It's sad to say that."
The Utah Jazz will now head home and enjoy a two-day break before hosting the Chicago Bulls at the Vivint Arena. It won't be easy for several players to look beyond Tuesday's incident, but perhaps they'll be able to use this time off to put their minds at ease.