Last Saturday, on March 24th, Grand Rapids Drive player Zeke Upshaw collapsed on the court in a game against the Long Island Nets.
Upshaw passed away two days later, cause of death identified as cardiac arrest.
A loss of life is nothing we are all truly prepared for. And as someone who covers the NBA G League with the Texas Legends, I am going to substitute my not knowing Zeke Upshaw with knowing dozens of players that have passed through the Dallas Mavericks affiliate the past two seasons.
Part of working in the G League, in any department, mine being as staff writer for the team, means forming a bond with the players. Especially as a writer, when more than half of what I do is talk to players.
Any article I write, beyond X's and O's, is only as good as the player I'm writing about.
Whether it be Quincy Acy, Pierre Jackson, Ben Gordon, C.J. Williams, Jameel Warney, Kyle Collinsworth, Stephane Lasme or countless other players, they make my writing what it is.
A big part of that is their personalities. In fact, it is the biggest part.
And that is why I wanted to write, albeit indirectly, about Zeke Upshaw. I didn't know Zeke Upshaw, but I know G Leaguers.
I know how hard they work. I know how much basketball means to them. I know they could be making more money somewhere else or give up the basketball dream up altogether.
They put everything they have into the game, and for a salary cruelly unjust for the talent they possess.
But more than what happens on the court, I have come to realize the humility, the infectious personalities, the tireless work and the year-round commitment that these professional basketball players put in.
Just about every single one of them has that innocent, wide-eyed, genuine love for the game that seems to fade as we age. They make every organization member feel a part of the team. They are truly here for the love of the game.
They are good people.
You admittedly don't hear that everyday about athletes. Whether it be true or not, you just don't.
But meeting, working with and writing about G Leaguers for the past two seasons has not only been a blessing and a privilege, it has opened my eyes to the character of these professional athletes.
I didn't know Zeke Upshaw, but everyone I have talked to that was somehow involved in one of his social, basketball or professional circles says he was just as I picture him: a good man.
He will be missed, but he will absolutely not be forgotten.
RIP Zeke Upshaw 1991-2018