Utah Jazz players go unrecognized in London
London » They went out to dinner Sunday dressed in the same Jazz sweats they'd worn from practice to that afternoon's Chelsea-Liverpool game, then decided to walk through a couple of neighborhoods before catching a cab back to the hotel.
Of course, Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Kyle Korver were noticed in this city of 7 million people, right?
"No," Korver said. "Not even a little bit. We're just the tall guys. No one could care less. It was great."
Even if Tuesday's preseason game at The O2 arena is sold out, there's still some question about just how much interest the British have in basketball.
As Bulls guard Derrick Rose said after attending an Arsenal game with teammate Luol Deng: "Soccer rules everything over here. I should've been a soccer player."
Although he was regularly recognized during trips to China and Spain, Williams said he goes largely unnoticed in London, except by younger fans. "This is not really a basketball savvy city," he said.
Not that he's complaining. "There's many times I wish I could go out and just fly under the radar," said Williams, who joked about coming up with a disguise to use in Salt Lake City.
Carlos Boozer had a different experience, going to dinner with his sister, who's studying abroad this year. Boozer said he posed for 20 pictures and signed 30 autographs after he was recognized by locals.
"They knew my name and everything," Boozer said. "I was actually surprised a little bit but my sister wasn't. Even though basketball may not be like a huge sport in London, they watch it, I guess. People watch it."
Tuesday's game will be a homecoming for Deng, who moved to London when his family was given political asylum when he was 9. Deng now plays for Great Britain's national team and spoke Monday about the growth of the game in his country.
"I know from growing up here, I know a lot of people are into basketball," Deng said. "It might not be on TV as much, but there's a lot of people that follow it."
According to an article in The Times of London, basketball is the fastest-growing sport among those 18 and under in the country, though Deng said the opportunities for top players are still limited.
"I really believe as basketball keeps growing and there's more facilities, you're going to see a lot more players from the U.K. in the NBA because the talent is there," Deng said.