Mark Eaton, the former Utah Jazz center and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, has died following a bicycle crash in Summit County, Utah. He was 64.
According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, police found Eaton lying in the road around 8:30 p.m. Friday night in the Silver Creek Estates neighborhood. Eaton was taken to a hospital where he later died. The cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner’s office.
“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.
With the Jazz set to play Game 3 against the Memphis Grizzles on Saturday night, Rudy Gobert took to Instagram to share some words about his mentor.
“To my great mentor and friend @markeaton7ft4,” Gobert wrote in a post. “One of kind and an amazing human being. I’m grateful for your presence in my life over the years. Gonna miss our conversations. But i know you’ll be watching.”
Eaton’s No. 53 was one of the first jerseys retired by the Jazz. The 7-foot-4 center was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1989, was a five-time All-Defensive team selection, and was an All-Star in 1989. Eaton led the league in blocks per game four times, and in 1985 posted the highest average (5.4 BPG) since the NBA started officially tracking that statistic.
“He was so impressive,” longtime NBA broadcaster Mike Inglis told ESPN Saturday. “I used to call him the human condominium complex. He was something else on defense, let me tell you.”
After announcing his retirement in 1993, Eaton penned a column for The Salt Lake Tribune that read, “It has been a great ride, but life does have a way of moving on and I must move on with it. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and community. I’ll be around.”