Utah Jazz fans have gone through an emotional period of few days in their basketball lives. Their favorite team, considered as the “best” in the NBA (in terms of regular season standings), got a devastating blow to their playoff hopes.
The Utah Jazz were already riding high after winning three straight before the start of the month of December by securing a playoff berth in a nail biting finish against the Houston Rockets on January 4. But things got even better for the Jazz after a scintillating win against the Memphis Grizzlies on January 6, which was preceded by a devastating loss to the Denver Nuggets on January 1.
The Utah Jazz are back in a tie in their playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies after star Donovan Mitchell lost Game 1. The team enters Saturday’s third game with a draw, but playing in pain and away from home. The Jazz have learned of the shocking death of former great Mark Eaton, who was found in the middle of the road Friday night.
Mark Eaton was one of the Utah Jazz’s best defensive players
Mark Eaton #53 of the Utah Jazz plays defense during an NBA game at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988. Eaton played at UCLA University. The 6-foot-8 center was selected by the Jazz in the fourth round of the 1982 NBA Draft. Eaton was never known as a scorer, he made his living defending. In his second year in the NBA, he led the league with 4.3 blocks per game. He led the league in that category four times in his career. Eaton was the defender in the middle. Her average of 3.51 blocks per game remains the best in league history. He was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the 1984-85 and 1988-89 seasons. He was selected to the defensive team for five seasons. For a great man, he was as resilient as the rest. He has played in 338 consecutive games. In the 1988-89 season, he was the only NBA All-Star to average 6.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. Eaton finished his career averaging six points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game.
Eaton died in a bicycle accident at the age of 64
We are deeply saddened 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 member of the community. The Jazz announced Saturday that Eaton died in a hospital after he crashed his bike in Summit County, Utah. According to police, Eaton was found lying in the street before being taken to a local hospital, where he died. The Utah Jazz are deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of Mark Eaton, who was an important figure in the history of our franchise and had a significant impact on the community after his basketball career ended, the Jazz said in a statement, according to NBA.com. Mark played his entire 11-year NBA career with the Jazz, and his number was retired because he was an NBA All-Star and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He remained a friend and ambassador of the organization while giving back to his hometown in Utah as a businessman and volunteer. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Teri and their entire family. Brand will be greatly missed by all members of Jazz. During the 1995-96 season, the Jazz retired Eaton’s number 53 jersey.
Eaton was coached by Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert
To my great mentor and friend @markeaton7ft4 , a unique and amazing human being, I am grateful for your presence in my life over the years. I will miss our conversations. But I know you guys will be watching. Eaton still holds the record for most blocks in a season. He blocked 456 shots in the 1984-85 season. In a 2019 interview, he said he couldn’t believe his record could still keep pace with all the quality centers playing the game. It baffles me, Eaton said at the time. I kept thinking someone was going to come and push me out of the way. It’s amazing.
I don’t think about it often, but sometimes I look at all the great midfielders that have come through and none come close to that record. It’s a little crazy. Eaton played an important role as a mentor to Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Gobert is widely considered one of the biggest defensive stars in the modern NBA. I text Rudy sometimes and tell him it’s your job to guard the whole team, Eaton said in 2019. Color is your home. Don’t let anyone in. I like watching it. He’s so exciting. Gobert was devastated when he heard the news of Eaton’s death. To my great mentor and friend @markeaton7ft4, a unique and amazing person, I am grateful for your presence in my life over the years, Gobert tweeted. I will miss our conversations. But I know you’ll be watching.