May 28, 2024

The Duke-UNC rivalry is intense, marked by strong dislikes for certain athletes on each side. Duke fans may always remember JR Reid and Makhtar N’Diaye as disliked figures, while UNC fans might hold animosity toward Christian Laettner and Grayson Allen, with Gerald Henderson also remaining unforgiven.

Yet, amidst the fierce rivalry, there are players who garner admiration and respect from both camps. Grant Hill is one such universally respected figure, and so was Eric Montross.

During Montross’s time at UNC, Duke was experiencing historic success with back-to-back championships. Despite not being a naturally gifted athlete, Montross, standing at 7-0 and 250 pounds, possessed strength and a strong work ethic. He embodied Dean Smith’s ideals of selflessness, passion, and a commitment to team-first basketball. The 1993 UNC team, which won the national championship after Duke’s consecutive titles, showcased the beauty of basketball as a collective effort, and Montross played a crucial role.

University of North Carolina Tar Heels vs University of Maryland Terrapins

Sadly, Montross, diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year, passed away at the age of 52. It’s ironic that one of the reasons many beyond UNC fans appreciated Montross was his genuine devotion to Jason Clark, a teenage cancer patient he met during his time at UNC. Montross went beyond the usual public relations gestures of players visiting hospitals; he developed a true connection with Clark, expressing genuine concern and deep sorrow upon his passing.

Montross leaves behind a legacy of friendship and admiration. While watching him play against your team may not have been enjoyable due to his tenacity on the court, no one questioned his fundamental decency and inherent kindness. His absence will be keenly felt, and condolences go out to his family.

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