For most basketball teams, the hardest part of air travel is the lack of leg space. For the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball players and staff, however, small seats would have been a blessing compared to how their March flight to the Big Ten tournament played out.
In all, 109 passengers and seven crew members were on board an Ameristar Charters flight that slid off the runway upon departing Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Tyler Davis, a team manager, called the incident the “scariest moment of my life,” but everyone made it off the MD-83 unharmed.
As some of the players were very nervous about flying again, the team reportedly considered the possibility of forfeiting the tournament. However, the Wolverines took off for Washington D.C. the next morning, and, wearing their practice uniforms, easily defeated Illinois, before winning the Big Ten tournament.
It’s not exactly Hollywood material, but the story still means enough to Michigan players that they made it a permanent part of their accomplishment. On Saturday, the Wolverines raised their conference championship banner and the players received rings with an airplane engraved on them.
Team captain Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was one of the players on the team flight, and he told the Detroit Free Press how the experience brought the players even closer together.
"It put a lot of things in perspective. And we can kind of joke about it now, but it wasn't a laughing matter when it was happening," he said. "Seeing what we went through and how we handled that adversity was a testament to who we are, how we handled it and the type of bond we have around here."