Everyone, it seems, wants to have their picture taken with Mark Eaton.
The 7-foot-4 former NBA All-Star center said he doesn’t mind. In fact, he’s used to it. “It’s who I am and you just kind of have to accept that and use it to your advantage,” Eaton said.
Eaton’s positive attitude, fan friendliness and rich, commanding baritone voice have made him an in-demand motivational speaker in the past five years.
He spoke about businesses eliminating internal competition on Friday morning during the 2012 Energy and Infrastructure Summit at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson. Afterward, he greeted people and, of course, took side-by-side photos with whoever asked.
“There’s a lot of parallels between sports and business,” Eaton said. “I’ve been able to take those concepts and effectively turn them into learning and teaching tools for people in business. To the point where they can see where they can apply it right now. That’s kind of fun.”
Eaton said his story of how he became a professional basketball player was the perfect genesis for him delving into the world of motivational speaking.
He was a 21-year-old auto mechanic before he was discovered by an assistant basketball coach at Cypress (Calif.) Junior College. After one year at Cypress and three subpar seasons at UCLA, the Utah Jazz took a chance on the project center in the fourth round of the NBA draft.
Utah’s gamble paid off.
Eaton became a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and was selected to play in the 1989 NBA All-Star game.
A shot blocking machine, Eaton ranks first in NBA history in blocked shots per game in his career at 3.5 and averaged a NBA record 5.6 blocks per game in the 1984-85 season.
He played his last of 11 NBA seasons in 1992-93 and his number is one of six retired by the Jazz, a team he helped begin to turn around alongside future Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone.
His playing days provide ideal stories for his speeches titled “The Four Commitments of a Winning Team.”
“I focus on items that most people, I think, take for granted — like making other people look good on your team,” Eaton said. “That’s one of the four components of my commitments that a lot of people forget.”
Eaton, who has done some radio and TV work for the Jazz, said he likes where his old team is headed. Eaton said he is excited about a young, yet deep team that is looking to return to the NBA playoffs.
His former teammate, Tyrone Corbin, is Utah’s head coach.
“He’s really had to live in the shadow of (former Jazz head coach) Jerry Sloan, which is a challenge for him to really establish who he is as a coach and what his philosophy is,” Eaton said. “So, it’s a little bit of a growth time for the Jazz to get that together. I thought they finished the season pretty well last year.”