In Memoriam: Mark Eaton
On May 28, 2021, the NBA world lost another individual from its long history. Mark Eaton, the former Utah Jazz defensive anchor, passed away at the age of 64 due to a bike crash and was later pronounced dead at the hospital he was rushed to in Utah. This comes off the heels of the basketball world still mourning the loss of Lakers great, Elgin Baylor, who passed away on March 22, 2021. Another sad tragedy that has struck not just the Utah Jazz, but the NBA as a whole. While these are dark times for the Jazz with this news as they battle the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, let’s reflect on the impressive career Eaton put together for himself. The 7’4″ center has plenty of positives to look back on, especially looking at his defensive resume.
Remembering Mark Eaton
Mark Eaton: A Utah Jazz Fan Favorite
During his career, Eaton seemed to be Rudy Gobert before Gobert was even a thought in the minds of Utah Jazz fans. Eaton’s length and shot-blocking ability presented a challenge for the opposition night in and night out. Especially when you consider the era in which Eaton played in. An era that was still new to the three-point line and it seemed rare to see players and teams actually utilize the shot that is so prevalent now in today’s modern NBA. Eaton netted himself one All-Star Game appearance (1988-89) throughout his 11-year career. Not to mention, the gigantic frontcourt defensive rim protector also came away with two Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-Defensive Team selections, and led the league in blocked shots an astounding four times.
On top of this, Eaton knew how to fill up the box score defensively as well. For his career, he averaged 3.5 blocks, 5.8 defensive rebounds, and a career defensive rating of 100. Impressive considering advanced analytics were hardly ever thought of in the era in which the late, great big man played. Even if Eaton was not getting a block or a rebound, he was still impacting the game by altering shots at the rim or making a man think twice before driving inside. Oh, and he of course put up solid total rebounding numbers grabbing 7.9 boards per game throughout his career. It is easy to see where the Rudy Gobert comparisons come from after analyzing these numbers and Eaton’s play-style. However, Mark Eaton’s impact stemmed outside the court as well.
Eaton the Ambassador
What tends to go unnoticed is Mark Eaton’s contributions after his career as a player. We alluded to current Jazz star and likely Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, earlier. He was a mentor to Gobert among other things after his retirement. Eaton was also an avid motivational speaker and a restaurateur. Not to mention, he also dabbled in philanthropy work to go along with serving as a key member on the board for the National Basketball Retired Players Association. Mark Eaton touched lives on and off the court. Our thoughts go out to his family as we remember how dominant the Jazz defensive stalworth was during his career. From all of us at CrownHoops, rest easy Mark Eaton.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images