SALT LAKE CITY - It might as well have been a United Nations run.
A total of 14 international players were on the rosters of the 76ers and Utah Jazz for Thursday night's game at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
"Basketball is all over the world," said Sixers power forward Ersan Ilyasova, a native of Turkey. "Obviously in Europe, it's still more like a soccer thing. But still, a lot of kids play and follow basketball, especially the NBA."
Among the international players on Utah's rosters are Dante Exum (Australia) and Frenchmen Rudy Gobert and Boris Diaw.
Ilyasova said the goal for international players is to come to America and play in the NBA. Growing up, the 29-year-old woke up at 3 a.m. to watch Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki.
"You just kind of imagine yourself [playing in the NBA]," he said. "It gives you extra motivation to work on your game and hopefully one day you are going to be right there."
Even though they're from different countries, there's a sense of pride and camaraderie among international players since they have made it a global sport.
Most of the players became familiar with one another competing in the European Championships and/or the Olympics.
"We know each other from way back," Ilyasova said. "We always had respect for each other. And the thing is, it's hard to make it from the NBA from Europe. . . . Obviously, if you are here, you have to really talented at some point."
T.J. McConnell headed into the game averaging 4.2 points, 4.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 19.7 minutes. He was the NBA's lone player to average at least 4.5 assists while playing fewer than 20 minutes per game. McConnell was also the only player to do so last season when he averaged 4.5 assists in 19.8 minutes.
"To do that two years is an honor, considering all the people that played in the league," he said. "But I have to give my teammates all the credit. They are the ones making the shots."
McConnell realizes this is a major accomplishment for someone who went undrafted out of Arizona in 2015. That's why he looks at it as taking advantage of an opportunity.
"I was given an opportunity here [and] I don't want to let it go by the wayside, because there's like 450 of us," McConnell said. "I try to play my heart out every game."