Auburn Hills — Zeke Upshaw, a forward for the Grand Rapids Drive, the development league affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, died Monday morning, two days after he collapsed on the court during a game.
The Drive made the announcement from Upshaw’s mother, Jewel Upshaw, on Twitter.
“After continued efforts from the medical team at Spectrum Health, Zeke made his transition at 11:16 am. To family, friends, teammates, coaches, fans & confidants, thank you for your prayers and support during this most difficult time,” the team posted.
“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 Drive for the support they have extended to our family.”
Upshaw, 26, collapsed Saturday night during the final minute of the Drive’s regular-season finale against the Long Island Nets. He lay on his stomach on the court for several minutes, as he was attended to by team medical staff.
He later was taken off the court on a stretcher and relayed to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, where he spent Sunday and Monday morning.
The Drive won the game, which earned the franchise’s first playoff spot in its four-year history, against Toronto on Friday.
The Drive released a statement on Monday afternoon:
“The Drive family is mourning the tragic loss of Zeke Upshaw. He had a warm personality and was a tremendous representative of our organization both on and off the court,” the team posted on its Twitter page. “Our thoughts are with all of Zeke’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
There was no mention of the cause of death.
Pistons coach and team president Stan Van Gundy also was struck by the difficult news of Upshaw’s passing.
“A lot of people, even to me, have expressed sympathy and condolences and everything,” Van Gundy said before the Pistons’ game Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers. “Certainly, our thoughts go out to his family. We’ve tried to support his family and the players and coaches in Grand Rapids because it’s been a traumatic situation for them also.”
The Pistons held a moment of silence for Upshaw before Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Little Caesars Arena.
Dwight Buycks, a Pistons guard who played with the Drive to start the season, said he had built a friendship with Upshaw during their time together in Grand Rapids. Though Buycks has been with the Pistons full-time since January, he looks back fondly on his bond with Upshaw.
“I knew Zeke really well; we were really close friends,” Buycks said Monday morning, before hearing of Upshaw’s passing. “It was shocking to even hear about it. I was just praying for him and hoping that he would pull through everything.
“We were really close; we stayed next door to each other. We played video games all the time and went to the gym to put in extra work together. It was a bond that I build down there very quick. He was one of the guys I bonded with really well.”
The harrowing news of Upshaw’s passing spread across the NBA community quickly. Several players offered their condolences, including former Piston Tobias Harris, Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas and Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns.
“The NBA G League family is devastated by the tragic passing of Zeke Upshaw. Zeke was an outstanding young man whose powerful belief in himself and uncommon perseverance led to a successful basketball career,” said Malcolm Turner, president of the G League.
“A beloved member of the Grand Rapids Drive, Zeke’s continuous improvement and tireless work ethic were hallmarks of his career. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends and the Drive organization.”
Upshaw played in college at Illinois State before transferring to Hofstra.