Utah Jazz forward Al Jefferson spent an hour Thursday afternoon interacting with residents at Palmer Court in downtown Salt Lake City. Jefferson answered questions from children and adults, then signed everything from backpacks and tennis shoes to photographs and basketballs. His appearance was highlighted by a personal donation of school supplies to Palmer Court children.Highlights from Jefferson's appearance:Jefferson was introduced to a crowd of about 100 with a brief rundown of his life and basketball background. His favorite team when he was growing up was Chicago; his favorite player was Shaquille O'Neal. His main interests: fishing, music, movies. Jefferson was initially surrounded by a semicircle of seated children, many of whom eagerly asked questions."You're my new friends. You can call me Big Al.""I didn't expect to be on the Jazz. But it's a dream come true.""I'm a simple guy. A homebody. A peaceful guy. Basketball is my life."Asked if he was the player who once clotheslined Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant, Jefferson smiled and said, "No."Jefferson started playing basketball when he was 5. He initially used a soccer ball because he could not grab hold of a basketball. He was 6-foot-7 in the ninth grade.He is not married but has one child.On the Jazz:"If everybody plays their best we've got a chance to accomplish a lot."After being asked if he has ever played against the Lakers:"Yeah. We're going to beat them this year."On the NFL:"I like to watch football but not play. ... Those guys hit too hard. I'm too big to cry on the field."His favorite team is New England.On his future with the Jazz:"I'm only 25 years old, so I've got a lot of time ahead of me. ... I'd like to play 10 more years. I hope this is my final team."Karl Malone is his favorite ex-Jazz player.Jefferson spent about 30 minutes signing autographs "Big Al, 25" and stayed until everyone in the room was taken care of. He then took a picture with the Palmer Court staff. Finally, his appearance was serenaded by a Jazz-inspired cheer from three small girls.
Brian T. Smith