Over the past several years, earning respect on the court for the Utah Jazz has come with the emergence of the team as an NBA power. Earning respect off the court has come through a commitment to community that began over 10 years ago and still remains a top priority for the franchise.

"We're fortunate that long before most professional sports teams were thinking in terms of `giving back to the community,' that focus was a priority that had support from our top management, almost since the day the Jazz arrived in Utah," says David Allred, the team's vice president for public relations."Frank Layden stressed that as an important part of doing business along the Wasatch Front and that commitment has never changed."

The Jazz public relations department, a leader in the NBA in developing community relations programs, deals on a daily basis with almost every kind of imaginable request, from pleas for autographs or donated tickets, to requests for players to attend civic functions.

"Not everyone receives the answer they want," says Allred, "but hopefully fans understand the limitations we have and our desire to do as much as we can."

Last year alone, the Jazz received over 4,000 written requests for appearances, donations, or financial assistance and Allred estimates probably double that amount came over the telephone. The team was able to make about 400 appearances and grant another 300 requests for donated items.