clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Family of Zeke Upshaw files wrongful death lawsuit against NBA, Pistons, and Grand Rapids Drive

Upshaw died after an on-court heart attack left him on life support. Decorated attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard will represent his family.

Results Announced Of Independent Autopsy On Stephon Clark, Shot By Sacramento Police Officers Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The family of Zeke Upshaw, a 26-year-old G League player for the Grand Rapids Drive who died after suffering cardiac arrest during a March 24 game, is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the NBA, the Detroit Pistons, and the owners of the G League team. Renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Texas lawyer Bob Hilliard will represent the Upshaw family in court. The Grand Rapids Drive are owned by SSJ Group and are the Pistons’ G-League affiliated team.

In the final minute of a March 24 game between the Grand Rapids Drive and the Long Island Nets, Upshaw collapsed and suffered an unexpected heart attack on the court. The lawsuit alleges that life-saving measures — such as initiating CPR or using a defibrillator — were not performed in a timely manner after Upshaw collapsed. He was placed on life support and passed away two days later.

The lawsuit points to other incidences of cardiac arrest linked to basketball and the NBA, including 17-year-old AAU standout James Hampton, who collapsed on the court during the Nike Elite Tournament on May 26.

“The NBA has known of the risk of sudden cardiac death in players since at least 1993 (and likely long before) when NBA star Reggie Lewis suffered a sudden cardiac death on the basketball court at an off-season practice at the age of 27 (a year older than the deceased, Zeke Upshaw),” the suit states. “The NBA is aware of the many similar and tragic sudden cardiac events resulting in sudden cardiac deaths suffered by seemingly healthy athletes while playing at all levels of organized basketball (NBA, NCAA, AAU, high school) for decades since — including most recently, the death of 17-year-old high school phenom and AAU standout James Hampton, who collapsed during a basketball game and died shortly thereafter.”

Crump is a prominent civil rights attorney who recently represented the family of Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by Sacramento police while holding a cell phone in his grandmother’s backyard. Hilliard is a renowned lawyer who led litigation against Major League Baseball last season that resulted in a league-wide policy that extended protective netting in all stadiums.

“When the otherwise healthy heart of a professional NBA athlete suddenly stops during a game there is absolutely no reason, in 2018, that his heart cannot be immediately restarted,” Hilliard said in a press release. “No attempts were made to save Zeke Upshaw’s life. No CPR, no defibrillation, nothing. This is the tragedy of this case, Zeke should be alive today, the human consequences are difficult to quantify.

”Changes must come to the NBA and we are bringing the lawsuit to cause those changes. No other young man should have to die on a basketball court again.”