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Examiner: Grand Rapids Drive player Zeke Upshaw suffered 'sudden cardiac death'

Zeke Upshaw

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Kent County medical examiner has determined Grand Rapids Drive player Zeke Upshaw was the victim of a “sudden cardiac death."

Zena "Zeke" Upshaw, 26, collapsed during a game last Saturday night against the Long Island Nets. He was rushed to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital as emergency crews worked to save his life. 

Upshaw died two days later.

“We did an autopsy today. It’s my opinion that it's a cardiac death.” Kent County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle told WOODTV Tuesday. “I think he died a sudden cardiac death.”

Cohle noted Upshaw had a “slightly enlarged” heart, but said that is not entirely unusual in athletes. He added he’s not sure the slight enlargement had anything to do with why he died.

“There were some cardiac abnormalities that I hope to clarify by looking at the tissue slides,” Cohle said. “I’m going to try to characterize the exact type of heart disease microscopically.”

Monday afternoon, the Upshaw family confirmed his passing:

“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 Drive released this statement:

"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. Our thoughts are with all of Zeke’s family and friends during this difficult time."

The Grand Rapids Drive is an NBA G League team and an affiliate of the Detroit Pistons.

“Our thoughts and prayers extend to the entire Upshaw family during this terribly difficult time,” said 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.  “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, drafted in the fourth round of the G League’s Developmental Draft in 2016.  Undrafted by the NBA, he previously played overseas before joining the Drive.  Upshaw appeared in 41 games with the Drive this season, averaging 8.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game.  The Chicago native played collegiately at Illinois State and three seasons at Hofstra where he averaged 19.8 points and 4.8 rebounds during his senior season (2013-14).

Upshaw’s funeral is set to take place Saturday in the Chicago area. 


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