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Mother Of D-League Player Who Died On Court Sues NBA For Failing To Save His Life

Illustration for article titled Mother Of D-League Player Who Died On Court Sues NBA For Failing To Save His Life
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The mother of Zeke Upshaw, the NBA D-League player who died after collapsing on the court in March, has filed a lawsuit against the NBA alleging no one performed lifesaving measures after Upshaw collapsed on the court.


The suit, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Of New York, alleges that Upshaw’s death came “as a direct result of the negligence of the Defendants named in this litigation.” The suit says Upshaw laid on the court for almost four minutes before being moved off the court on a stretcher; a hospital cardiologist cited in the filing says Upshaw’s brain was without oxygen for another 40 minutes after being wheeled off the court.

“Zeke Upshaw, improperly attended, was left to lie unconscious on the hardwood, in his team’s full uniform, slowly dying as his otherwise healthy heart sat, unbeating in his chest,” the suit reads. “A heart that likely only needed a compression series, or a charged delivery from a defibrillator, to begin to pound again and to pump blood and life back into Zeke Upshaw. However, according to witnesses, no one ever attempted to revive him.”

In a paper released by the American College of Cardiology in 2016, authors David Lee and Eugene H. Chung write that “emergency action plans must be in place and routinely reviewed at any athletic facility” in order to treat any athletes who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest. In order to save a player who suffered a sudden cardiac event, life-saving measures need to be taken immediately.

The lawsuit alleges that the Grand Rapids Drive either had no such plans or ignored them the night of Upshaw’s collapse. It alleges that a defibrillator may have restarted his heart, but no lifesaving actions were taken on the four minutes Upshaw laid on the court. By the time Zeke Upshaw was taken to a nearby hospital, he was brain dead.

“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,” attorney Bob Hilliard said at a press conference in New York today. “No attempts were made to save Zeke Upshaw’s life. No CPR, no defibrillation, nothing.”

Jewel Upshaw, Zeke’s mother, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. She is suing the NBA, the co-owners of the Grand Rapids Drive (the Detroit Pistons and the SSJ Group) and the arena. She is represented by Hilliard and Ben Crump. The NBA did not immediately return a request for comment from Deadspin.

Staff editor, Deadspin