Former college and professional basketball player Eric Montross died over the weekend after a 9-month battle with cancer, his family announced Monday.

Montross, best known for his prolific basketball career at the University of North Carolina, died at age 52 on Sunday “surrounded by loved ones at his home in Chapel Hill,” his family said in a statement released by the university.

“To know Eric was to be his friend, and the family knows that the ripples from the generous, thoughtful way that he lived his life will continue in the lives of the many people he touched with his deep and sincere kindness,” his family continued.

Eric Montross played eight seasons in the NBA, playing for the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors.

JOHN RUTHROFF/AFP via Getty Images

Montross was best known for earning All-American honors during his junior and senior seasons ― a recognition as being one of the best college basketball players in the country ― when he led UNC to the national championships in 1993 and 1994. He started 105 games in his four seasons there, averaging 11.7 points per game, according to The Athletic.

He went on to play eight seasons in the NBA, playing for the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors. He announced his retirement in 2003 due to a foot injury.

He went on to serve as an analyst for the Tar Heel Sports Network for 18 seasons before stepping away this year.

“I’ve had the good fortune of being able to come back and be around this program again as an analyst, and for me, to look back and be a part of it has been great,” Montross said in a post-game interview in 2010. “As you leave you start to realize just how much fun you had here and what success you had and how that’s not how it always goes.”

His family announced his cancer diagnosis in March and said he was receiving treatment at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center.

Montross' UNC teammates embrace him after winning the national championships in 1993.
Montross’ UNC teammates embrace him after winning the national championships in 1993.

David E. Klutho via Getty Images

“Your support is more than appreciated; it is welcomed as a necessary part of beating cancer one day at a time,” they said in a statement. “Our family is dealing with Eric’s diagnosis head-on ― the only way we know how.”

Montross played for UNC under renowned coach Dean Smith, whose legacy includes bringing on the team’s first Black player. During the summer of 2020, when Black Lives Matter protests exploded across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd, Montross spoke out about the need to end police brutality against Black people and for white Americans to recognize their privilege.

“It wasn’t that I ever thought differently of someone whose skin color was different than me, but I maybe didn’t have my eyes open as wide as I should have,” he told Sports Illustrated at the time.

“So many of my friends are not white men. And so many of my teammates are not white men. Many of the people I call my best teammates, and I call my best friends don’t look like me,” he continued. “There are people who I deeply, deeply respect who don’t look like me. I think that we just have an opportunity now as a nation and drill down to your household, neighborhood, community, state, and nation.”