Although the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves probably don't rank high on his list of favorites, Karl Malone says he's a big animal lover.
As a result, the Utah Jazz standout spent Saturday afternoon at Hogle Zoo signing autographs and raising money for the zoo."I really love animals and this is my way of saying `thank you' to Utah and to the zoo because they do something special for me," Malone said, adding that he visits the zoo frequently.
Hogle Zoo director Lamar Farnsworth said Malone's secretary called a few months ago and said he'd like to do something for the zoo. It was Malone's idea to sign autographs to raise money.
For three dollars, fans received an autographed poster with Malone's handprint on it that said, "Karl Malone and I gave Hogle Zoo a helping hand." Zoo visitors then could stamp their own handprint with paint next to Malone's.
"His hand is huge!" said volunteer Julie Lingman.
Derek Kirby and Doug Partner, both 9-year-old fans of Malone, said they like the Mailman's "slam dunks best." Although Kirby bought an autographed poster for himself, Partner bought one to give his mom in a frame as a present.
"She's a big Karl Malone fan," Partner said.
Malone fans thanked him with excited squeals, hugs and smiles. To thank Malone, zoo staffers presented him with a handprint of Dan the gorilla.
"We thought it was an appropriate thank you," Farnsworth said, adding that Malone told him Saturday's fund-raiser was just the start of his involvement with the zoo.
Farnsworth said officials haven't determined yet which project will benefit from Saturday's fund-raiser.