Mark Eaton — one of the best defensive players ever — died Friday. The Utah Jazz confirmed the news to the Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday. Eaton was 64.
Police received a call from one of Eaton's neighbors Friday. That neighbor found Eaton unconscious with his bicycle on a road in Summit County. Eaton was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His cause of death is not known at this time, though police do not believe a vehicle was involved in the incident.
Eaton was selected by the Jazz with the team's fourth-round pick in the 1982 NBA draft. The 7-foot-4, 275 pound Eaton quickly became known for his defensive prowess. He made the NBA All-Defensive team five times and led the league in blocks four times, including a record-setting 456 blocks during the 1984-85 season. Eaton was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice, and was elected to the All-Star team once.
Eaton spent all 11 of his NBA seasons with the Jazz. The team struggled during Eaton's rookie season, going just 30-52. Things turned around quickly in Eaton's second year, and the Jazz made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. That kicked off a run where the Jazz made the postseason 20 straight seasons. Despite that, the Jazz never won an NBA championship.
After Eaton retired following the 1992-93 season, the Jazz retired No. 53 in his honor. Eaton is one of 11 people to have their number retired by the franchise.
Following his retirement, Eaton served as president of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. He also co-owned a restaurant, Tuscany, in Salt Lake City.
Eaton was present at the Jazz's playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The Jazz won the contest 141-129.
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