When the Jazz lost to the Bulls in the NBA Finals for the second straight time, various local and even national sportscasters began referring to Karl Malone as the "Jim Kelly of the NBA."

Kelly, of course, was the man who quarterbacked the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl - and four consecutive losses. And Malone apparently took great offense at that comparison.But Kelly, now a sportscaster with ESPN (he'll be a studio analyst covering the NFL), didn't take any offense at Malone taking offense. He actually laughed when he heard the story.

"I've been a big fan of Karl's. I think that if I was in his situation, I'd probably react the same way," Kelly said. "I think that when you do reach the championship game - whether it's the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals - and you don't win, it hurts. It will always hurt.

"But you talk to any professional athlete - basketball, football - and ask them how hard it is to get there and they'll say it's almost impossible. And what we accomplished in the four years, going back-to-back-to-back-to-back, will never be matched again."

In other words, perhaps Malone ought to be flattered to be compared to Kelly.

"Yeah, I would have loved to win one. I would love to see Karl win one," Kelly said. "But there's a lot of players that won't be able to say that they had a chance to do that."

SOMETHING IN COMMON: As it turns out, Kelly and Malone are scheduled to work together in just a few weeks.

"As a matter of fact, we both are going to be doing a commercial together next month for Rogaine," Kelly said with a laugh.

Then, turning around and displaying his bald spot, he added, "And it does work. It's getting better."

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WRESTLEMANIA: Unlike Malone, Kelly never attempted a second career as a professional wrestler. But he, too, had some involvement in the theatrical event that is pro wrestling.

"I was on the `Monday Night Nitro' and `Thursday Thunder' the last couple years, but more so because the guy that was promoting (them) was a very good friend of mine," Kelly said. "We drew the largest crowd ever for wrestling those two times. And he wanted me to have a little fun.

"It's good for the fans in Buffalo; it's good for people to watch; but more than anything, a lot of the proceeds were going to my son's charity. And that's probably one of the main reasons I wanted to do that."

(Kelly's 16-month-old son, Hunter, suffers from Crabbe's disease, an incurable disease that attacks the brain. He has organized a charity to raise funds to search for a cure.)

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