Eric Montross, a former NBA player and college basketball legend, passed away on Sunday, December 17, 2023, at the age of 52. He died from cancer at his home in Chapel Hill, surrounded by his loved ones. He was diagnosed with cancer in March 2023 and had to stop working as a radio analyst for Tar Heel games.
Remembering Eric Montross
Eric Montross was born on September 23, 1971, in Indianapolis. He attended Lawrence North High School and was a star player on the basketball team. He received scholarship offers from several colleges but chose to play for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) under coach Dean Smith.
Montross had a stellar college basketball career at UNC. He was a two-time Associated Press second-team All-American and the starting center on the late Dean Smith’s second NCAA championship squad in 1993. He led the Tar Heels to two Final Four appearances and one national title in his four years at UNC. He also set several school records, including most points scored by a center (1,850), most rebounds by a center (1,016), and most blocks by a center (288).
Montross entered the NBA draft in 1995 and was selected by the Boston Celtics with the fourth overall pick. He played eight seasons in the NBA with six different teams: Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors. He averaged 7.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his NBA career and won one NBA championship with the Raptors in 2001.
Montross retired from basketball in 2008 after suffering multiple injuries. He then pursued a career in broadcasting and became a radio analyst for UNC game broadcasts. He also worked for the Rams Club, the fundraising arm of UNC’s athletics department. Montross was known for his court tenacity and team contributions as both a player and an analyst.
Reactions from the Sports World
Montross’s death shocked and saddened many people in the sports world. His former teammates and coaches expressed their condolences and admiration for him on social media.
- Kevin Garnett: “Eric was one of my favorite players to ever play with. He was always tough on himself but never gave up on anything. He had a great heart and soul.”
- Dirk Nowitzki: “Eric was an amazing man who loved basketball more than anything. He was always positive and supportive of everyone around him. I’m honored to have played with him.”
- Rick Carlisle: “Eric was one of my best players when I coached him at UNC. He was a leader on both ends of the floor who always gave his best effort.”
- Mike Krzyzewski: “Eric was one of my greatest players ever at UNC. He won two national championships with me and led us to many memorable moments. I’m proud of what he accomplished.”
- Jerry Stackhouse: “Eric was one of my closest friends when we played together at UNC. We had so much fun on and off the court together. I’ll miss him dearly.”
Many fans also paid tribute to Montross on social media using hashtags like #RIPEricMontross #UNCLegend #NBAChampion #TarHeelNation.
Legacy of Eric Montross
Montross left behind a legacy that will live on through his achievements as both a player and an analyst.
As a player, he helped UNC win two national championships under coach Dean Smith’s guidance. He also made four All-American teams during his college career at UNC.
As an analyst, he brought his passion and knowledge for basketball to millions of listeners across North Carolina radio stations. He also inspired many young people to pursue their dreams through his community service work.
Montross will be remembered as one of the best players to ever wear a Tar Heel uniform and one of the most beloved figures in North Carolina sports history.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, fans, colleagues, and former teammates.
Rest in peace, Eric Montross.