Skip to main content

How Wilt Chamberlain helped Mark Eaton succeed in the NBA

Mark-Eaton-Wilt-Chamberlain

The story of All-Star and Utah Jazz legend Mark Eaton is as inspirational as it gets. Eaton wasn't talented at a young age, so he was a reserve on his high school basketball team. After graduation, Mark started to work as an auto mechanic. Still, at the age of 21, he was discovered by an assistant coach at Cypress College, who talked Eaton into playing basketball, so Eaton committed to the community college.

Soon he transferred to play basketball for the UCLA Bruins and was drafted in the fourth round of the 1982 draft by the Utah Jazz. However, Eaton wasn't high on confidence after becoming an NBA player. One talk with the all-time great Wilt Chamberlain changed it all.

"I was feeling sorry for myself, and I was thinking that maybe I just can't play at this level. And at that moment, I feel a large hand on my shoulder, and it's Wilt Chamberlain, arguably the best basketball player that ever lived. Wilt retired from the NBA a few years earlier, and every afternoon he would come down and watch the younger players workout. Wilt said to me, 'First of all, young fella, you would never going to catch that guy, and more importantly, it's not your job.' He took me under the basket and said, 'Your job is to stop players getting here. Your job is to make them miss their shot, get the rebound, throw it up to the guard, let them go on the other end, and score. Your job is to cruise down the halfcourt and see what's going on.' I liked this part. He said,'I've been watching you, and I see the skill you have at defense. This is what you need to focus on." Eaton said.

Mark Eaton, CLNS

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Mark was inspired and more determined than ever after the talk with Wilt the Stilt. He took Chamberlain's words seriously, and he dedicated his craft to become a ruthless defender.

"When Wilt shared that with me, everything changed. I understood what I needed to do. I understood what I can be great at. I wasn't that fast, I wasn't that good at scoring, but I did have a talent for preventing others from scoring. And it took Wilt Chamberlain to see it. I stopped running around trying to do everything and instead focused on one thing I could be great at. And I went on to become one of the great defensive players in the NBA."

Mark Eaton, CLNS

Defense was Eaton's breakfast, lunch, and dinner - he became a shot-blocking machine and racked up 456 blocks in the 1984-85 season. That is still a record in the NBA. Eaton also holds the highest average of blocks per game with 5.56. His defensive displays helped Utah Jazz transform into a contender, and he also became an All-Star in 1989.

It's fascinating how a single interaction can change someone's destiny. We often see players roam around the league, and then suddenly, things fall into place. As it was with Mark Eaton, it's often about finding your identity on the court - knowing what you're good at and what you're not. Coaches often ask players to be the star in their role, but sometimes it takes a word from one of the greatest to understand what that role is. 

Want to stay up to date with the latest news and reactions?Download our NBA news feed for breaking news, live stats, and game coverage.

JJ Redick explains why Eric Gordon could've helped Phoenix Suns in the playoffs

JJ Redick explains why Eric Gordon could've helped Phoenix Suns in the playoffs

The Phoenix Suns fans wanted Eric Gordon but the front office panned their wishes.

LeBron James names three players he'd team up with in a 2v2 vs Jordan and Pippen

LeBron James names three players he'd team in a 2v2 vs Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

History showcases LeBron knows how to adjust his role to accommodate his teammates.

Damian Lillard defends Chris Paul from Pat Beverley’s attacks

Damian Lillard defends Chris Paul from Pat Beverley’s attacks: What CP do to you?

Since the Suns went down in Game 7, Patrick Beverley has attacked Chris Paul for his poor performance. Damian Lillard chimed in and defended CP3.

Doncic dominated the Suns in a way no player ever has in the postseason

Luka Doncic dominated the Phoenix Suns in a way no player ever has in the NBA postseason

Doncic beat the Suns top players in their best skill, showcasing how talented he is despite being just 23 years old.

How Ime Udoka’s confidence in the Boston Celtics role players helped them beat the Milwaukee Bucks

"I told him let it fly” - How Ime Udoka’s confidence in the Boston Celtics role players helped them beat the Milwaukee Bucks

Udoka never lost faith in any of his players, and his encouragement to Grant Williams ended up being the difference in the series between the Celtics and Bucks

Kevin Love and Dwayne Wade confirm that LeBron James is the cheapest guy in the NBA

Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade confirmed that LeBron James is the cheapest guy in the NBA

Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade are a puzzled at how cheap LeBron James is.

We're entering the Luka Doncic-Jayson Tatum era, and Jimmy Butler and Steph Curry hope to postpone the invetable

We are entering the Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum era, and Steph Curry and Jimmy Butler hope to postpone the inevitable

The performances of Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum tell us they are going to be good for a very long time. Meanwhile, Steph Curry and Jimmy Butler are going to do everything to postpone the young stars' ascension to superstardom

anthony-edwards-chris-paul-min

Anthony Edwards bashes the Suns after Game 7: "They were talking so much sh*t. This is a disgrace!"

LeBron also warned the Suns to pipe down last year: "Stay humble.. You was at home a year and a half ago. Now you wanna pop off."