SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Mike Leavitt thanked Karl Malone on
Friday for his years of outstanding citizenship and activism in
Malone, who began playing for the Utah Jazz in 1985, is leaving
this weekend for his new home and team in Los Angeles.
Wildlife organizations, law enforcement officers and others who
he has helped over the years gathered at the State Capitol to say
thank you and to recognize "Karl Malone the citizen," Leavitt
Among those honoring Malone were Bob Flowers, state public
safety commissioner, who said law enforcement agencies served Utah
residents better thanks to Malone's contributions.
Several members of Utah's wildlife organizations also thanked
Malone, an avid hunter, for his donations to wildlife conservation
and management efforts.
Kevin Conway, Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife
Resources, called Malone an outstanding ambassador for wildlife
"You are leaving Utah wildlife better than you found it,"
Malone joked with the gathering that they should view his
departure, one that he hopes will result in an NBA championship
with the Los Angeles Lakers, as if he's going on a two-year mission
-- referring to the proselytizing missions that devout Mormons
"Thank you to the state of Utah for allowing me to grow as a
person, as a man," Malone said.
Malone was emotional as he talked about the families that he has
gotten to know through his work with the Karl Malone Foundation for
"I want to thank the families who give us inspiration," Malone
said. "We get our strength from you as a family."
Melissa Hansen, of Salt Lake City, attended the event with her
son Oakley, 9. Oakley uses a large motorized wheelchair, and the
Karl Malone Foundation for Kids gave the Hansen a van about four
years ago to improve Oakley's mobility.
"Karl, sweet, sweet, Karl. He provided something for our family
that we could not provide for ourselves, and that is our freedom by
giving us that van," Hansen said. "Wherever Karl is, that is
where our hearts are. We're Lakers!"
Leavitt ended the ceremony by signing a proclamation naming
Friday "Karl Malone Day."
Malone was throwing a free thank-you party of his own later in
the day at the Delta Center for fans.