Former Jazz great Mark Eaton dies at 64

Mark Eaton, the 7-foot-4 shot-blocking king who twice was the NBA’s defensive participant of the yr throughout a profession spent completely with the Utah Jazz, has died. He was 64.

The workforce introduced his loss of life Saturday.

Eaton left his dwelling for a motorcycle journey Friday night time in Summit County, Utah, and shortly thereafter somebody referred to as 911 to report after seeing him mendacity on a roadway and unconscious. Eaton was taken to a hospital the place he later died.

The workforce, citing county officers who investigated, stated “there is no reason to believe a vehicle was involved in the incident.”

The Jazz described him in a press release as an “enduring figure in our franchise history” who had a “significant impact in the community after his basketball career.”

Utah coach Quin Snyder stated Saturday night time earlier than Game 3 in Memphis that the workforce’s ideas and prayers exit to Eaton’s spouse.

“Mark was someone that was a friend, and I think a friend who a lot of us, in his relationship with Rudy Gobert I think is emblematic of who he was and his ability to listen,” Snyder stated. “And then to offer counsel and support was something that was really unique, and obviously we’ll miss him.”

The middle led the league in blocks per recreation 4 instances and his common of 5.6 per contest in 1984-85 stays the very best common for the reason that NBA began formally monitoring that statistic.

Mark Eaton shoots over Ralph Sampson during a game in 1983.
Mark Eaton shoots over Ralph Sampson throughout a recreation in 1983.

Eaton’s profession blocks common of three.51 per recreation is one of the best in NBA historical past, and his profession occurred nearly accidentally. He was working as an auto mechanic in 1977 when a group faculty basketball coach persuaded him to enroll. From there, he went to UCLA, and his stint with the Jazz adopted.

“I had an unusual background,” Eaton stated for a narrative printed on the Jazz web page two years in the past. “It’s an unlikely story to be sure. I basically came into the NBA with two years of junior college experience and sat on the bench at UCLA for two years. And Frank Layden gave me a chance and the team was in a space where they could afford to let me make some mistakes out there and get my feet underneath me. It worked out well for both of us.”

Eaton had been, amongst different issues, a restaurateur and motivational speaker in his retirement. In latest years, he served as a mentor to Utah middle Rudy Gobert — the one different participant in Jazz historical past to win the defensive participant of the yr award.

“He was so impressive,” longtime NBA broadcaster Mike Inglis, now the radio voice of the Miami Heat, stated Saturday. “I used to call him the human condominium complex. He was something else on defense, let me tell you.”

Eaton’s loss of life got here days after he was in Chicago to be a part of the celebration for his buddy Joe West, who broke baseball’s umpiring file by working his 5,376th regular-season recreation Tuesday night time.

His 11 enjoying seasons with the Jazz are third most in workforce historical past, behind longtime Utah cornerstones Karl Malone and John Stockton. His sturdiness was noteworthy, with him as soon as showing in 338 consecutive video games. He completed with profession averages of 6.0 factors and seven.9 rebounds.

But his finest talent was defending the rim, and as soon as advised a narrative about how Wilt Chamberlain provided him recommendation about his profession. He incorporate the story right into a motivational speech, telling others that Rule No. 1 for fulfillment is to “know your job.”

“Wilt grabbed me by the arm, took me out on the floor, positioned me right in front of the basket. He said, ‘You see this basket? Your job is to stop players from getting there. Your job is to make them miss their shot, get the rebound, throw it up to the guard, let them go down the other end and score and your job is to cruise up to half-court and see what’s going on,’” Eaton stated.

“When Wilt shared that with me, everything changed. I understood what I needed to do,” Eaton stated. “I understood what I could be great at. Wilt showed me what my job was and how doing what I did would benefit my team.”

Eaton additionally served as an officer within the National Basketball Players Association, and the union launched a press release Saturday saying he can be missed.

“It may be cliched, but it’s true: Mark Eaton was a giant, in every sense of the word,” the NBPA assertion stated. “A long-time member of the NBPA Executive Committee right through his retirement from the league in 1994, Mark served his colleagues with grace and strength, and continued to watch over them through his service for the Retired Players Association. His imposing physical presence made a delightful match with his warm and thoughtful manner.”

Eaton’s No. 53 was one of many first jerseys retired by the Jazz. He was the defensive participant of the yr in 1984-85 and 1988-89, was a five-time All-Defensive workforce choice — three first-team nods, two second-team picks — and was an All-Star in 1989.

He was taken with the 107th general decide by Phoenix within the 1979 draft, then drafted once more at No. 72 general by Utah in 1982. And he by no means left; his final recreation was in 1993, however again issues ended his profession and he retired in September 1994.

“It has been a great ride, but life does have a way of moving on and I must move on with it,” Eaton wrote in a column for The Salt Lake Tribune through which he introduced his retirement. “Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and community. I’ll be around.”

True to his phrase, Eaton remained a Utah mainstay for the remainder of his life.

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