"A bad dream … that you actually had to live.”

A Utah Jazz team flight gone awry

BY TOM HABERSTROH

Blue skies. A slight Northwest breeze carrying over Great Salt Lake. No rain. There was no reason to think Tuesday’s short flight to Memphis—of all the flights in an NBA season—would be the risky one. 

Mike Conley noticed a flock of geese in the distance, but didn’t think much of it. Delta flight 8944 took off from runway 35 on the east side of the airport. 

Just 10 minutes into the climb—before the comfort of cruising altitude: BANG, BANG, BANG.

“What the fuck was that? What just hit the plane?” Georges Niang said to Joe Ingles, in the next seat. Turbulence doesn’t sound like that.

Niang’s brain scrambled to make any sense of it. What sounded like that? His initial thought: a rocket. 

Panic ensued. The plane tipped back and forth trying to stabilize itself. Players shouted out in horror. Niang gripped the armrests in his aisle seat and looked out the window over Ingles’ shoulder. Niang’s stomach churned as the plane surged up and down, up and down. Niang peered out the wi…

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