Former Raptors big man Eric Montross passes away at 52 after cancer battle

Montross will be remembered as a solid Raptors big man.
Feb 5, 1992; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels center Eric Montross (00) looks to pass
Feb 5, 1992; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels center Eric Montross (00) looks to pass / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors of the early 2000s may have been the Vince Carter show at times, but they had an identity based on strong defense. Center Eric Montross, an old-school seven-footer with long arms, helped them achieve that vision during some playoff runs early in the millenium.

Montross unfortunately passed away at the age of 52 following a battle with cancer that advanced in the last few months. Montross will forever be remembered as a North Carolina legend and veteran big man with NBA teams like the Raptors, Celtics, and Pistons.

"The family of Eric Montross (Laura, Sarah, Andrew, and Megan) is announcing that he passed away on Sunday, December 17, surrounded by loved ones at his home in Chapel Hill," the family said in a statement. "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."

Former Toronto Raptors center Eric Montross passes away at 52.

Montross became a legend at North Carolina, as he started for three seasons and became an integral part of a Tar Heels team that won a national championship during his junior season. Montross was picked ninth overall in the 1994 NBA Draft ahead of names like Eddie Jones and Jalen Rose.

Montross had bounced around the league a bit by the time he came to the Raptors, but he played a part in the first ever Toronto team that made a bit of a deep run in the postseason. Montross was a regular starter under Lenny Wilkens in his final NBA seasons.

Montross ended his Raptors career with averages of 2.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Toronto made the playoffs in both of his seasons with the Raptors, including their Game 7 loss against the 76ers in 2000-01. He was a reliable screen-setter, rebounder, and defender in those years.

The Raptors family has suffered some tough losses this year, as the first-ever head coach in franchise history in former Pistons assistant Brendan Malone passed away at the age of 81.

Our condolences go out to the Montross family, his teammates at UNC and in the NBA, and anyone who was close to him during this very challenging time. Montross' iconic No. 00 will live forever in a generation of Tar Heel fans that saw him at his absolute peak.