The NBA lost another legend the other day when it was announced the former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton died after crashing his bike. Eaton was a household name in Utah, spending his entire 10-year-long career with the Jazz, earning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice during that period. Standing at 7’4′, Eaton made his presence felt in the paint in which he was racking up blocks and establishing himself as an anchor defensively.
We are heartbroken by the passing of Utah Jazz legend Mark Eaton.
Our thoughts are with his family as we all mourn the loss of a great man, mentor, athlete and staple of the community. pic.twitter.com/HkINyLF9ix
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) May 29, 2021
During the NBA on TNT episode, Shaq, Barkley, and Kenny Smith paid their respect for Eaton and sent their condolences to his family. Shaq, one of the most dominant players in NBA history, admitted that Eaton was the first guy that made him feel small. They only had the opportunity to play against each other during the 1992/93 season when Shaq was a rookie while Eaton was in the last season of his career.
I didn’t Mark, but I played against him a couple of times. Mark was the first gentleman that made me feel small. What I mean by that is that in elementary, high school, AAU, I was always the tall kid; everybody looked up against me. In 1987/88, I was a Spurs fan, sitting all the way on the top, and I used to see him, but I never realized how tall he was until we played against them. He was tough, and I used to give him that patterned elbow sandwich that I used to give to guys, and he never complained; he never said anything. My condolences go to his family, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about him.Shaquille O’Neal, via NBA on TNT
Eaton 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. He averaged 3.51 blocks per game which is the best in NBA history, and his career happened almost by accident. Eaton worked as an auto mechanic in 1977 when a community college basketball coach persuaded him to enroll. He went to UCLA and then became a member of the Jazz, where he was a household name for over a decade. Mark Eaton will definitely be missed, not just because of his accomplishments in the NBA, but all the charity activities he did after his career was over. He was deeply involved in the community with his family and left an impactful mark on numerous people around him.