Tuesday, December 19, 2023

RIP Eric Montross

The years 1993 to 1997 were my most sports-crazed years as an adult. I worked as the sports editor at The Alestle, the student newspaper of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. I also was a frequent guest on my buddy Wayne Frazer’s local-cable TV college basketball and baseball shows. Then I went on to be a sports reporter for two years at the daily newspaper the Centralia (Illinois) Morning Sentinel.

I couldn’t get enough of sports, and I couldn’t really get away from sports either. I eventually decided I couldn’t be a sports reporter if I was going to continue loving following sports. Since I was about 12, I had loved college basketball, namely the North Carolina Tarheels. So when center Eric Montross led them to the national championship in 1993, I was deep into my sports love affair, so those Heels will always hold a special place for me. It’s really sad that Montross had recently been diagnosed with cancer and died this week at the age of 52.

His Tarheels team is among my all-time favorites, led by Coach Dean Smith, forward George Lynch, and sharp-shooting guard Donald Williams. North Carolina knocked off #3 Michigan 77-71 in the NCAA championship in part due to a timeout called by Michigan’s Chris Webber when his team didn’t have any timeouts. 

Another memorable game (pictured above) was when Montross played Duke with blood streaming down his face, leading to his nickname Bloody Montross. That made sense because he really did fight tooth and nail for his team at all times. The 7-footer went on to be drafted by the Boston Celtics and played eight years in the NBA.

Bonus basketball RIP also goes to former Philadelphia 76er George McGinnis, who died this week at 73 and helped usher in a trend of big men being able to handle the ball throughout the rest of the court.

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