First of all, thanks to Mark for taking time out of his schedule to answer some questions concerning his NBA career, his current business ventures, and his upcoming movie. Also, a big thanks to Mark's rep Cathy for setting this up.
Mark Eaton is one of the most intimidating defenders in NBA history. The NBA Defensive Player of the Year for 1984-85 blocked and astounding 456 shots, the league record. He finished his career with 3,064 blocks and averaged 3.5 blocks per game.
These days when he's not running his successful restaurants, Tuscany & Francks, he's out on the road as a motivational speaker. I was lucky enough to be able to email him some questions to which he promptly replied.
Part one of this interview will deal with his career now and also an update on the movie being made about Mark's journey to the NBA. Part two will run Monday and will cover the his career in the NBA and other Jazz related items. So here we go...
SLCDunk.com - You've had a lot of business ventures since you retired from the NBA. How did you decide to go into motivational speaking?
Mark Eaton - I have a lot of experience in teamwork and business and decided to take my message of how to end internal competition and focus on innovation out to the world. I spent many years speaking at a local level and decided to take it to a bigger audience. You can hear a little bit of it on my website at www.7ft4.com
In your intro video on your website, you state, "I found out that if there's something about you that makes you uncomfortable, or is difficult for you, it might be your greatest asset." What's the most difficult thing you've turned into an asset?
My height was always something that made me uncomfortable as a young man and when I met coach Tom Lubin in 1977 he showed me a new way to look at basketball from the perspective of a big man. In high school my basketball experience was all about guards and running around the court quickly. Even though I was 6'11" I didn't know what to do with me and neither did the coaches.. Tom showed me how I could utilize my height on the basketball court and most importantly was willing to take the time and make the commitment to teach me.
From what I've read, after high school, you were pretty set against basketball. You had given up water polo, your favorite sport, for basketball and ended up not playing much. Then, a couple years after graduating, you were a mechanic, and a good one at that. One day Tom Lubin walks into your shop and asks if you play basketball. And after what I can imagine was a curt "No" from you, he convinces you to give up something you love again to play basketball. What did he say to you?
Tom told me he had worked with a couple of other big guys who had gone on to play professional basketball and I think there was something inside of me that wanted to give it one more shot even though I hadn't played basketball in over three years.
What are a couple of your favorite books or speakers that inspire you?
I would say over the last few years I have been influenced by Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, and I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I also recommend Wilt. Larger than Life by Richard Cherry a great look inside the life of a man who may have been the greatest athlete of the 20th century. I'm also listening to The Tipping Point in my car.
Part of your bio states that you're working on a new book about mentoring in sports and business. Can you give us some details on it?
I'm writing a book with a friend of mine who is a Ph.D. in business at Westminster College here in Salt Lake City. I have interviewed 15 current and former NBA players including John Stockton, Alonzo Mourning, Charles Barkley and Willis Reed to name a few. I asked them to share some of the stories of the mentors to influenced their life and careers. My co-author is adding the academic side and the business application. We have a couple different publishers looking at it right now. It is tentatively titled, Mentors Matter.
Can you elaborate a bit on "Stand Tall. Play Big." from your website?
Stand Tall. Play Big. means that you utilize all the gifts you [have] been given. Play at a high level and make other people look good.
On a lighter note, have you ever thought of incorporating any of Matt Foley's techniques into your talks?
No, I focus on creating solutions not more problems!
The Center of Fortitude (formerly "Riding the Bench")
Stacy Dymalski approached you about making this movie about your life. First of all, who's going to play Mark Eaton?
Believe it or not there are some actors out there who can play me. There was an article in the LA Times a year or so ago about the movie and we got a number of referrals of former ballplayers who are actors. A couple of them look promising.
It's been in the works now for about two years from what I can gather. It looks like it's in pre-production now. Do you have a target date for release?
The script is being reviewed by a few of the big production houses in LA. The next step is to sign a director and/or key actor to play one of the roles. That will make the project more marketable. It has taken a fair amount of time since inception and Stacy is quite optimistic that we will have a deal put together shortly for production.
What's the main thing you want people to remember about this movie?
I want people to know that all successful journeys have humble beginnings and their share of ups and downs along the way. The key is to pursue the dream until all the options have played themselves out. It's really a story of fortitude and sticking with something even when there was no evidence it is going to work out
Are you going to have a cameo in the film?
Yes, you'll probably see me sitting in the crowd somewhere, eating a taco!
Thanks again to Mark. Part two coming on Monday!