Though professional basketball players must almost always stand tall literally, the Utah Jazz can now stand tall figuratively.

By giving the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers just about all they could handle in the Western Conference semi-finals, the Jazz not only bolstered Utahns' pride in them, but also won new respect throughout the country.Even some of the Jazz' losing efforts were impressive. In all, it was a gritty effort by the Utah team - and excellent, exciting basketball.

If only one indication of such excellence could be mentioned, it would have to be that of guard John Stockton, who set a new NBA record for assists during the regular season and tied the single-game playoff record in the same category.

But then the performance of other team members and coaches during the past season also should have helped build the Jazz' over-all self-confidence. The challenge now for the Jazz is to overcome any inclination to be satisfied with their present level of excellence and to keep demanding even more of themselves.

Meanwhile, the 1987-88 season was great while it lasted. We eagerly look forward to seeing the much--improved Jazz in action during the next season.