Mark Eaton, Former Utah Jazz Center and Shot-blocking King, Dies After Bicycle Crash at Age 64

Then-Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton in action against the Orlando Magic at the Orlando Arena in 1991.

Mark Eaton, the 7-foot-4 shot-blocking king who twice was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year during his career with the Utah Jazz, has died, the team said Saturday. He was 64.

The Jazz said that police said Eaton was found lying in the road around 8:30 p.m. Friday after apparently crashing his bike in Summit County, Utah. According to the team, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office said that Eaton was taken to a hospital, where he later died, and that there was no reason to believe a vehicle was involved in the accident.

“The Utah Jazz are profoundly saddened at the unexpected passing of Mark Eaton, who was an enduring figure in our franchise history and had a significant impact in the community after his basketball career,” the team said in a statement.

“… His presence continued around the organization as a friend and ambassador while giving back as a businessman and volunteer to his adopted hometown in Utah. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Teri and their extended family. Mark will be greatly missed by all of us with the Jazz.”

The center, who spent his entire career with the Jazz, 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 was so impressive,” 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 defense, let me tell you.”

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 the Jazz followed.

His 11 playing seasons with the Jazz are 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 games. He finished with career averages of 6.0 points and 7.9 rebounds.

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SOURCE: ESPN