UNC basketball star and commentator Eric Montross dies

 December 19, 2023

North Carolina basketball star Eric Montross has died. He was just 52.

The UNC alum passed away from cancer, according to his family.

As a Tar Heel from 1990 to 1994 under legend coach Dean Smith, Montross led UNC to an NCAA Championship and was recognized twice as an All-American.

UNC star dies

In 1994, the Boston Celtics drafted Montross ninth - and he went on to play with the Dallas Mavericks, The New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors across eight seasons with the NBA.

In 2003, he was forced into retirement by a foot injury.

After basketball, Montross became a color commentator for Tar Heel Sports Network, where he commented on UNC men's basketball until his cancer diagnosis this March.

A big man with a big heart, the seven-foot tall Montross was also known for his charitable efforts to support children with cancer through his Father's Day basketball camp, which raised over $1 million for the UNC Children's Hospital. He was a regular visitor at the hospital.

"Eric was a great player and accomplished student, but the impacts he made on our community went way beyond the basketball court," UNC said. "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."

Tributes pour in

His family said he passed away "surrounded by loved ones at his home in Chapel Hill."

"Eric was diagnosed with cancer in March 2023, and his family is grateful for the tremendous support and the truly overwhelming love expressed by so many people as he battled with his signature determination and grace," the family said in a statement.

Montross' death is being felt in North Carolina and all through the world of basketball.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas called him a "great player and champion, husband, father, friend, and a truly wonderful, beautiful soul."

Governor Roy Cooper (D) also shared a tribute to the North Carolina legend.

"So very sad to hear of the loss of Eric Montross whose contributions to the UNC community and our state went far beyond his championship basketball skills," Cooper wrote. "Our deepest condolences go out to all family, friends and Tar Heels. The Big E made a big difference in this world."

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