The 7-foot-4 center was a dominant force in the paint. Not known for his offense, Eaton made himself known on the defensive side.
Mark Eaton did not receive much playing time in college
Growing up, Eaton was always one of the tallest kids. But he was not immediately interested in basketball. The sport he enjoyed was water polo. After he graduated from high school, he did not immediately play basketball in college. Eaton worked as an auto mechanic for nearly three years before enrolling at Cypress College. During his time at Cypress, he averaged 14.3 points per game in two seasons and led the school to the California State Title as a sophomore.
The Phoenix Suns drafted Eaton in the 1979 NBA draft after his freshman year, but he decided to stay in college. After his time at Cypress, Eaton transferred to UCLA. When he got to UCLA, Eaton did not see much playing time. As a senior, he played 42 minutes averaging 1.3 points and two rebounds in 11 games. Eaton gave a lot of credit to Wilt Chamberlain for helping his basketball career.
Chamberlain would attend UCLA games and noticed how frustrated Eaton would get during games. So, Chamberlain explained to Eaton how he would be more effective at protecting the basket, getting rebounds, and passing the ball to the guards. Eaton soaked up that advice like a sponge.
Mark Eaton making his way to the NBA
Not too many NBA teams expressed interest in Eaton, but one team decided to give him a chance. The Utah Jazz selected him in the fourth round of the 1982 NBA draft. During his rookie season, Eaton quickly made an impact. He finished the season with 275 blocks, which was a franchise record. Eaton averaged 3.4 blocks per game that season, which was third in the NBA. Throughout his career, Eaton continued to be one of the top shot blockers in the league.
During the 1983-84 season, he led the league with 4.3 blocks per game. His best season came in year three when he averaged a career-high in points and blocks per game. He averaged 9.7 points and 5.6 blocks, which set an NBA record. Eaton’s 456 blocked shots that season broke the record for most blocked shots in a season. Players had trouble trying to score on Eaton, and he knew how to use his length to his advantage. Throughout his career, he made the All-Star team in 1989, was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, was named to five All-Defensive teams, and led the league in blocks four times. Those are some impressive defensive stats. He finished his career averaging six points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks (NBA record). The Jazz retired his No. 53 jersey.
Mark Eaton’s life after playing in the NBA
Eaton has continued to stay involved in the game of basketball after he retired. He’s worked for KJZZ-TV in Salt Lake City, as a commentator for broadcasts of the Jazz and University of Utah basketball games. From 1997 to 2007, he was a president/board member of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. Eaton is a well-respected person in Utah.
He started the Mark Eaton Standing Tall for Youth organization, which offers sports and outdoor activities for at-risk children in Utah, and he also is a motivational speaker. Eaton is giving back to the city where he played his entire NBA career, and many people have supported Eaton’s efforts.