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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Two-Time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Mark Eaton Passed Away at Just 64

If you grew up watching NBA basketball in the 1980s, you remember several signature plays: Julius Erving's dunks and finger rolls, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook, George Gervin's finger rolls, Magic Johnson's no-look passes, Larry Bird's three pointers, Michael Jordan's dunks. Signature plays tend to happen on offense, but if you really followed the game during that era one of the signature plays was Mark Eaton's blocked shot. Eaton, who led the NBA in blocked shots per game four times, passed away on Friday, apparently due to a bicycle accident. Preliminary reports indicate that no other vehicles were involved, nor is foul play suspected. He was 64 years old.

The 7-4 Eaton spent his entire 11 season NBA career with the Utah Jazz. Eaton made the 1989 All-Star team and received MVP votes in 1985 and 1989 even though he never averaged more than 9.7 ppg. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1985 and 1989. Eaton holds the pro basketball single season record for blocked shots with 456 in 1984-85. Artis Gilmore is the only other player who has blocked at least 400 shots in one season (422 in 1971-72) since the blocked shot has been an official statistic (1971-72 for the ABA, 1973-74 for the NBA). Eaton ranks fifth on the career blocked shots list with 3064, trailing only Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Artis Gilmore. Eaton holds the career record with 3.50 blocked shots per game.

After his retirement from the NBA, Eaton worked with the National Basketball Retired Players Association, including serving as that organization's president. He was both highly respected and well-liked. During Saturday's NBA coverage on TNT, Charles Barkley said that the announcement of Eaton's death "just broke my heart" and he referred to Eaton as "the ultimate gentle giant."

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:19 PM



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