Unusually High in Stature, But Still Very Much Down-to-Earth: Mark Eaton
By Ken K. Gourdin
This is what I wrote in response to an article appearing in today’s Salt Lake Tribune regarding retired Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton’s life after the NBA. See the story here (last accessed today): http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/jazz/56436150-87/eaton-jazz-basketball-utah.html.csp. He has carved out a life for himself as a sometime commentator, successful businessman/restauraunteur, and motivational speaker, and makes his home in Park City.
Good on you, Mark. Many ex-players have a hard time adjusting to life after sports because, for them, their sport isn’t just something they do: they think that it, alone, defines them, and without it, they think they’re nothing. You played basketball, and you did it well, but it hardly comprises the sum-total of what defines you as a human being. Don’t get me wrong: basketball (especially Jazz basketball, for me) is a great game, I love it, and I always will. But in the end, it’s still just a game. I’m glad that you were able to take what you learned on the court and apply it to life, as well. You’ve learned well a lesson that some athletes never learn: one isn’t a great person just because he’s a great player, but he can be a great player because he’s a great person.
I was lying in a hospital bed in 1982 when I heard that the Jazz had drafted you. I watched your development over the next few years as I recovered from my own struggles and I thought (although I was too young to put this thought precisely into these words at the time), “You know what? If the Jazz can take a former auto mechanic who barely played at the major college level and make a legitimate NBA center out of him, maybe there’s even hope for me, too.”
Again, good on you. Congratulations for your success, both on and off the court … and GO, JAZZ!!!!!
His success in basketball (and in other areas of his life) and his unusual height notwithstanding, while I don’t know him personally and could certainly be wrong, Big Mark has always struck me as a rather down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth, Everyman. His success doesn’t seem to have gone to his head. I’d certainly like to eat at his restaurant and, although the chances of this happening might be slim, perhaps have the opportunity to meet him face-to-face and share these sentiments with him in person.