Former BYU and Utah Stars big man “Jumbo” Jim Eakins is still a story, nearly 40 years after he played his last game.
A longtime coach in Utah, Eakins recently returned from a second LDS Church mission, this one in the Philippines, to find an ESPN story that ranks the top players from every NBA draft position. Eakins ended up being ranked the fifth-best No. 57 pick in league history.
That might seem like the second-best sword swallower in Iceland, but hold on. Based on win shares, Manu Ginobili was ranked first, Marcin Gortat second, Frank Brickowski third and Darren Daye fourth. Then comes Jumbo, who played nine years in the ABA — making one All-Star team.
Eakins isn’t the best-known former Cougar who played in the pros, but he was truly productive and highly durable. He was among the top six in games played six times. But he’s all over the ABA record books: seventh in offensive rebounds, eighth in defensive rebounds, sixth in blocks, 29th in career player efficiency, and a lot more.
He coached at Mountain View, Mount Vernon, Granite and Cottonwood high schools in Utah, started the basketball program at Salt Lake Community College, and was inducted into the Encina High and Northern California high schools halls of fame.
In his final year at BYU he averaged 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. He played in 84 games for the Utah Stars his first year and 16 the next.
The numbers are enough to put him on ESPN's list, into the ABA record books. You might say a Jumbo-size book at that.