Mother of Basketball Player Who Died on Court Sues NBA

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Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq.,
Legal Staff Writer

On May 30, 2018, the mother of promising young professional basketball player, Zeke Upshaw, filed suit in federal court, against the National Basketball Association (“NBA”), co-owners of the Grand Rapids Drive, the Detroit Pistons and SSJ Group LLC, and the DeltaPlex Arena, alleging negligence and gross negligence for the wrongful death of her son.

Plaintiff’s son was having a standout season in the NBA’s development league, or the “G-League,” catching the attention of Jeff Bower, general manager of the Detroit Pistons, who had contacted the deceased’s agent to express his interest in beginning talks of possibly moving Upshaw up to the Pistons. However, on March 24, 1018, Upshaw suddenly collapsed and became unconscious in the final minute of a basketball game from what the complaint describes as a “sudden cardiac event.”
Upshaw’s heart had stopped but team doctor had “stepped out,” and could not be located. Plaintiff alleges that an undertrained and unprepared medical staff was left to attend to the injured player.

The complaint states that the staff possessed “no sense of urgency,” conducting themselves in a manner that was uncertain and indecisive with a “complete and utter lack of appreciation of the severity of the moment as the basketball player’s life silently slipped away on the hard wood floor in front of them.” Further, the lawsuit emphasizes that “not a single life-saving measure was administered during the entire four minutes of the tragic event’s video recording,” meaning no CPR was initiated, no chest compressions were started, no oxygen mask was deployed and no defibrillator was utilized.” Plaintiff argues that her son’s death was foreseeable and preventable had the NBA and NCAA taken proper precautions, as medical events of a similar nature had previously occurred within the organization.

The lawsuit claims that had Defendants not been ill-prepared to handle this type of event, and properly trained medical professionals were present and able to provide “expeditious and proper treatment,” Upshaw would still be alive. Plaintiff hopes “that through her lawsuit, change will come to the NBA—that going forward, not one NBA son of a proud mother, will ever again suffer sudden cardiac death during a game.”

The case is: Upshaw v. National Basketball Association Inc. et al., Case No.: 1:18-cv-04740, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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