Jazz legend Mark Eaton has died, the team announced on Saturday. He was 64 years old.
According to a report from The Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), a passersby called 911 at roughly 8:30 p.m. local time after finding Eaton unconscious on the road with his bicycle in Summit County, Utah. He was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead. The Tribune, citing a statement from the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, reported that the cause of death has yet to be determined. There is no evidence a vehicle was involved in his death.
“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 Jazz said in a statement. “Mark played his entire 11-year NBA career with the Jazz and his number was retired as an NBA All-Star and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
“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.”
Eaton, 7-4, was a second-round pick out of UCLA by Utah in the 1982 NBA Draft. He was an immediate force for the Jazz, starting 32 games as a rookie. He was already a defensive terror by his third season in 1985-85, when he earned his first NBA Defensive Player of the Year nod (the other being in 1988-89). He was three times selected to the first team of the NBA All-Defensive team in 1984-85, 85-86 and 88-89. He was an All-Star selection in 1988-89.
Eaton used his tremendous height to his advantage as an interior defender, blocking a career 3,064 shots in his 11-year career. That ranks fourth all time, behind only Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was the NBA’s blocks leader in four seasons (1983-84, 84-85, 86-87 and 87-88), setting a still-standing single-season record for blocked shots (456) in ’84-85.
Eaton’s No. 53 jersey has been retired by the Jazz.