Detroit Pistons and NBA Settle Lawsuit Over Player’s Death

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Detroit Pistons organization have agreed to an undisclosed settlement with Gene Upshaw, the mother of Zeke Upshaw, after her son suffered a heart attack on the court during a G-League basketball game with the Pistons’ affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive. He died days later at a local hospital. Upshaw subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son against the Detroit Pistons organization, the NBA, DeltaPlex Arena, and the co-owner of the Drive, SSJ Group LLC.

The lawsuit claimed that the Pistons should not have cleared Zeke for physical activity because preseason tests showed that he “suffered from a below-normal heart function.” The case was moved to the Western District of Michigan due to Gene’s claim that, as the parent affiliate, the Pistons made most of the decisions regarding Zeke. The G-League comprises of “minor league” basketball teams which are associated with parent affiliate NBA teams, and are all considered to be under one organization.

Zeke Upshaw played college basketball for both Illinois State University and Hofstra University. He was named second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association in his senior season of 2014. After going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, he signed for teams in Slovenia and Luxembourg before he was selected in the 2016 G-League Draft in the fourth round. He scored 11 points in his final game before collapsing in the game’s final minute. He was taken away in a stretcher and died at Spectrum Hospital. An autopsy revealed his cause of death was sudden cardiac arrest.

The NBA honored his life after his passing with moments of silence in its games, and he was given an “honorary call-up” by the Pistons in a March 29, 2016 game against the Washington Wizards. The G-League also delayed its playoffs out of respect for Zeke.

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