Eric Montross, former North Carolina basketball star and NBA big man, dies at 52 after cancer battle

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Monday, December 18, 2023
Tar Heel Eric Montross, who anchored 1993 national title team, dies months after cancer diagnosis
Tar Heel icon Eric Montross died from cancer on Sunday at the age of 52.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Former North Carolina and NBA big man Eric Montross, who began treatment for cancer in March, died Sunday at the age of 52, his family announced Monday.

Carolina Athletics reports Montross passed surrounded by his loved ones at his home in Chapel Hill. His death comes nine months after he announced he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Montross was a towering figure in UNC basketball history. He played for coach Dean Smith from 1990-1994, starting at center for the Heels when they won Smith's second national championship in 1993.

His first two years in Chapel Hill, Montross played with current Tar Heel head coach Hubert Davis. Together they made it to the Final Four and Sweet 16 in 1991 and 1992 respectively.

SEE ALSO: Reactions pour in following death of UNC basketball legend Eric Montross

The 1993 national title team is the Tar Heel team that beat Michigan's Fab Five. The game is most remembered by future No. 1 overall NBA draft pick and hall of famer Chris Webber getting double-teamed and trying to call a timeout with Michigan down two points in the waning seconds of the game. Unfortunately for Michigan, the team was out of timeouts. Therefore, the gaffe resulted in a technical foul, which ultimately sealed the victory for UNC.

In Montross' senior season at UNC, the team finished the regular season ranked in the top 5 nationally. They won the ACC Tournament and went on to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, the team was upset in the second round by Boston College.

Montross was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. He played nine seasons in the NBA bouncing around with the Celtics, Mavericks, Nets, 76ers, Pistons and Raptors.

After his basketball career ended, Montross returned to Chapel Hill and became a well-liked analyst on the Tar Heel Sports Network. He was a familiar voice on the network for 18 seasons.

Montross stepped away from his duties with Tar Heel Sports Network to focus on his battle with cancer this season.

Carolina Athletics released the following statement about the passing of Montross:

"Carolina Athletics, the Tar Heel basketball family and the entire University community are profoundly saddened and stunned by the loss of Eric Montross, one of our most beloved former student-athletes, at far too young an age. Eric was a great player and accomplished student, but the impacts he made on our community went way beyond the basketball court. He was a man of faith, a tremendous father, husband and son, and one of the most recognizable ambassadors of the University and Chapel Hill.

He helped the Rams Club secure scholarships for student-athletes, and as color analyst for the Tar Heel Sports Network he brought perspective, heart and humor to UNC fans near and far. Eric also became an ardent supporter of the Lineberger Center while in college and remained a leader in the fight against cancer throughout his life.

We extend our deepest condolences to Laura, his children and entire family, and his colleagues and friends. The number of people who loved Eric and were touched by him is immeasurable."

Outgoing UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz also released a statement:

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my good friend and Tar Heel legend Eric Montross. He was an incredible friend, a passionate leader and an inspiring advocate for our campus. His impact extended well beyond the court with his tireless support of the UNC Children's Hospital and his annual Father's Day basketball camp. We have lost a great Tar Heel, and Eric will be truly missed. Please keep Laura, Sarah, Andrew and Megan in your thoughts and prayers."