A minor league basketball player from Chicago died Monday, just two days after he collapsed on a court during the Grand Rapids Drive’s victory over Long Island.
Zeke Upshaw, 26, was pronounced dead just after 11 a.m. Monday at Spectrum Health, his family said in a statement.
“After continued efforts from the medical team at Spectrum Health, Zeke made his transition at 11:16 a.m.,” a statement from his mother, Jewel Upshaw, read. “To family, friends, teammates, coaches, fans, and confidants, thank you for all your prayers and support during this most difficult time. We ask that you respect our privacy at this time. Details of his memorial will be announced at a later date. We’d like to thank the many doctors and nurses at Spectrum Health for their efforts in caring for our son. We’d also like to thank the Grand Rapids Drive for the support they have extended to our family.”
Upshaw, a forward for the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA’s G League, fell face down on the court with just 40 seconds left in Saturday’s game.
“I see Zeke face down not moving,” GR Drive announcer Eric Zane told NBC affiliate WOOD-TV. “Everybody in that building instantly was like, ‘This doesn’t look like any other ankle twist’ or something like that because he just wasn’t moving.”
Further information on what caused Upshaw’s death was not immediately released.
“The entire Grand Rapids Drive family is mourning the tragic loss of Zeke Upshaw,” Steve Jbara, owner of the Grand Rapids Drive, said in a statement. “Zeke had a warm personality and was a tremendous representative of our organization both on and off the court. Grand Rapids was fortunate to be the benefactor of two seasons of Zeke’s commitment to the youth and non-profits within our community. Our thoughts are with all of Zeke’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
“Our thoughts and prayers extend to the entire Upshaw family during this terribly difficult time,” Jeff Bower, General Manager for the Detroit Pistons, who oversee basketball operations for the Grand Rapids Drive as part of the club’s single-affiliation “hybrid” partnership, said in a statement. “Our organization is focused on providing necessary support for the Upshaw family as well as players and staff of the Grand Rapids Drive.”
Upshaw was a two-year player for the Drive and had been drafted in the fourth round of the G League’s Developmental Draft in 2016.
“The NBA G League family is devastated by the tragic passing of Zeke Upshaw,” NBA G League President Malcolm Turner said in a statement. “Zeke was an outstanding young man whose powerful believe in himself and uncommon perseverance led to a successful professional basketball career.”
Upshaw appeared in 41 games with the Drive this season, averaging 8.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game. He previously played at Illinois State and spent three seasons at Hofstra.
Dan Muller, head coach of Illinois State Basketball, said he was “heart broken” by news of Upshaw’s passing, writing on Twitter that “life is not fair.”
“Zeke was a wonderful man,” Muller wrote. “Hearts and prayers are with Jewel and family.”