Utah Jazz Great Mark Eaton Dies At 64

May 29, 2021, 10:16 AM | Updated: 6:03 pm
Mark Eaton #53 of the Utah Jazz plays defense during an NBA game at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake Ci...
Mark Eaton #53 of the Utah Jazz plays defense during an NBA game at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1988. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Mark Eaton, former Utah Jazz center and one of the most intimidating defenders in NBA history has passed away at the age of 64.

According to police, Eaton was found unconscious on Long Rife Road in Summit County after going on an evening bike ride. The former center was transported to the hospital where he later passed away.

Standing 7’4, Eaton was one of the tallest players in NBA History, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award twice in 1985 and 1989.

The center was a five-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive team, and joined teammates Karl Malone and John Stockton in the 1989 All-Star game in Houston, Texas.

Eaton holds the NBA record for career blocked shot average at 3.5 per game, and the single-season average at 5.6 blocks per game in 1985.

The center attended UCLA and was selected by the Phoenix Suns in the fifth round of the 1979 NBA Draft. However, Eaton chose to become a car mechanic, putting basketball behind him.

In 1982, Eaton was again drafted, this time by former Jazz coach Frank Layden who convinced the future star to come to the NBA where he would enjoy an 11-year NBA career.

Eaton said a chance encounter with superstar Wilt Chamberlain changed his game at a UCLA gym in the early 1980s.

“Look young fella, you’re never going to catch that guy,” Eaton remembered in a conversation with former teammate Thurl Bailey, “And more importantly, it’s not really your job. He said come here, so he grabbed me and he took me out on the court and he put me right in front of the basket and he said you see this basket behind you, your job is to stand here and block shots.”

Eaton retired from the NBA in 1993 and served as a pre and postgame host for Jazz games on KJZZ, co-owner of the restaurant Tuscany, and founded the Mark Eaton Standing Tall for Youth organization, which provided sports and outdoor activities for at-risk children in Utah.

Eaton was born in Inglewood, California on January 24, 1957. The Jazz retired Eaton’s number 53 jersey on March 1, 1996.

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