Mark Eaton, the 7-foot-4 shot-blocking king died. He was twice the NBA’s defensive player of the year during a career spent totally with the Utah Jazz. He was 64.
The team announced his demise Saturday.
Eaton left his home for a bike ride Friday night in Summit County, Utah, and shortly subsequently someone called 911 to report after seeing him lying on a roadway and unconscious. Eaton was taken to a hospital where he was later declared dead.
The team, citing county officers who investigated. He said there is no reason to believe a vehicle was implicated in the incident.
The Jazz described him in a statement as an enduring figure in our franchise history” who had a significant impact in the community after his basketball career.
Utah coach Quin Snyder said Saturday night before Game 3 in Memphis that the team’s thoughts go out to Eaton’s wife.
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 said. And then to offer counsel and support was unique, and we’ll miss him.
The center led the league in blocks per game four times and his average of 5.6 per contest in 1984-85 remains the highest average since the NBA started officially tracking that statistic.
Eaton : Glorious Career
Eaton’s career blocks average of 3.51 per game is the best in NBA history, and his career happened almost by accident. He was working as an auto mechanic in 1977 when a community college basketball coach persuaded him to enroll. From there, he went to UCLA, and his stint with Jazz followed.
I had an unusual background, Eaton said for a story circulated on the Jazz website two years ago. It’s an unlikely summary to be sure. I came into the NBA with two years of junior academy 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 errors out there and get my feet underneath me. It worked out well for both of us.
Eaton had been, among other things, a restaurateur and motivational speaker in his retirement years. Recently, he served as a mentor to Utah center Rudy Gobert — the only other performer in Jazz history to win the defensive player of the year award.
He was so excellent, longtime NBA broadcaster Mike Inglis, now the radio voice of the Miami Heat, said Saturday. I used to call him the human condominium complex. He was something else on safety, let me tell you.
Eaton’s death came days after he was in Chicago to be part of the festivity for his friend Joe Wes. He broke baseball’s umpiring record by working his 5,376th regular-season game Tuesday night.
His 11 playing seasons with the Jazz are the third-most in team history. Behind longtime Utah cornerstones Karl Malone and John Stockton. His durability was noteworthy, with him once appearing in 338 consecutive events. He finished with career averages of 6.0 points and 7.9 rebounds.
But his best skill was protecting the rim. And once told a story about how Wilt Chamberlain gave him direction about his career. He incorporates the tale into a motivational speech, telling others that Rule No. 1 for success is to know your job.
Eaton also helped as an officer in the National Basketball Players Association. And the union released a statement Saturday saying he would be missed.