Former Utah Jazz star big man Eaton dead at 64

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Former Utah Jazz 7-foot-4 (2.24m) star center Mark Eaton, seated while Utah's Jeremy Evans leaps over him for a dunk in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, has died at age 64, the Jazz announced Saturday

Mark Eaton, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year with the Utah Jazz, has died at age 64, the club announced Saturday.

Eaton had been riding his bicycle in Summit County, Utah, on Friday night before passersby saw the 7-foot-4 (2.24m) former center lying in the road after apparently crashing, according to the Summit County Sheriff's Office.

Eaton was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Authorities said there was no reason to believe a motor vehicle was involved in the incident.

Eaton was drafted by the Jazz in the fourth round of the 1982 NBA Draft. He played 11 league seasons, all with the Jazz, and was known as one of the game's top defensive big men.

But his path to the NBA was an unlikely one.

Eaton had been working as an auto mechanic in Arizona in 1977 when a community college basketball coach noticed him and talked him into enrolling at Cypress College. Eaton later transferred to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and learned the game under legendary coach John Wooden.

After joining the Jazz, Eaton blocked 3,064 shots -- the fourth most by any player in NBA history -- and led the league in blocked shots in the 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988 seasons, setting an NBA record with 456 blocks in the 1984-85 campaign.

Eaton was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1989, earning NBA All-Star honors in 1989 as well.

His number 53 jersey was retired by the Jazz during the 1995-96 season.

Eaton, according to a report on the Jazz website, said he was most proud of producing 10 winning records in his 11 seasons, saying, "We created a culture that is still part of the team's identity today."

After Eaton retired in 1993, he opened restaurants in the Salt Lake City area and later became an author and motivational speaker.

Eaton was also a mentor to the Jazz's current All-Star center, Frenchman Rudy Gobert.

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