Mark Eaton, a former two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the Utah Jazz, died Friday night after apparently crashing his bike, the team announced Saturday.
He was 64.
Eaton was found lying unconscious next to his bicycle on a road in Summit County, Utah, local police said, according to multiple reports.
Officials said they don’t have reason to believe a vehicle was involved in the accident, according to the team.
Eaton was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
Standing at 7-foot-4, Eaton spent his entire 11-year career with the Jazz and had his No. 53 retired by the franchise after his final season in 1992-93.
Before Karl Malone and John Stockton arrived, Eaton helped the Jazz reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history during his second season in 1984. He was named to the NBA All-Star game in 1989, when he won his second Defensive Player of the Year Award (his first was in 1984).
“That just broke my heart,” NBA great Charles Barkley said Saturday on “Inside the NBA.” Barkley had recently been in touch with Eaton and referred to him as “the ultimate gentle giant,” according to Desert News.
Eaton made the NBA All-Defensive team five times and led the league in blocked shots four times, including a record-setting 456 during the 1984-85 season. He later served as president of the NBA’s Retired Players Association and was seen at Jazz playoff games against the Grizzlies earlier this week.
Before basketball took him to UCLA and the NBA, Eaton was working as a mechanic when he was discovered by a junior college basketball coach who convinced him to give the sport a try because of his size. He still holds the NBA record for career blocks per game (3.5).
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