Although athletes’ busy lifestyles may be a sign of health, many famous sports figures have passed away. There have been some unfortunate, prematurely deceased players in the NBA. Some died off the court from natural causes. Still, some have passed while doing what they loved throughout the NBA’s history.
The NBA is the most popular basketball league on the planet, so let’s put down your Springbok mobile online gaming for a few minutes and look into the stories behind numerous well-known NBA basketball players who have died over time, tragically ending their promising careers.
Researchers and medical professionals attribute the deaths of NBA players on the court to different conditions. They include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, sudden cardiac arrests, and Marfan’s illness. Here are three famous NBA players who died on the court.
- Reggie Lewis (D.O.D July 27, 1993)
Reggie Lewis was about to become one of the top NBA players after having a stellar college career. In 1987, after Robert Parish, Larry Bird, and Kevin McHale had reached their primes, the Celtics selected him in the first round to bolster their offense.
A Bird injury gave Lewis more playing time than he had initially received. He capitalized on the opportunity to average 18.5 pts in his second season.
Reggie maintained his great performance and was at the peak of his game, garnering respect from his teammates and other players in the league. In 1992, he was selected for the All-Star game. A few months later, on April 29, 1993, Lewis passed out on the court when going up against the Hornets.
He was able to rejoin the action, but he eventually left as he kept getting lightheaded and had trouble breathing. Lewis underwent testing, and team physicians determined that he had a potentially deadly and career-ending heart disease.
However, another doctor determined that Lewis’ illness was significantly less severe and nonfatal. Reggie started preparing for the upcoming season despite the doctor’s assertion that he did not give the promising player the go-ahead to continue working out. Reggie Lewis experienced abrupt heart arrest on July 27, 1994, while participating in a practice session outside the regular season.
While on the scene, an officer attempted to bring him to but failed. At just 27 years, he was at the prime of his profession. According to an autopsy, he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a structural heart flaw that frequently kills young athletes.
- Zena Ray “Zeke” Upshaw (D.O.D March 26, 2018)
In his junior year, Zeke Upshaw, a superb high school player in his native, Chicago, averaged 24 points per game. In 2008, he was crowned his high school league’s MVP. He made the decision to attend Illinois State University as he was about to start a successful basketball career.
Sadly, his limited playing time at ISU forced him to go to Hofstra, and now with more playing time, he averaged 19.8 points per game. Zeke increased his points by 17.3, the highest increase in Division I basketball.
His improved play did not aid him in the NBA draft; after graduation, he was not selected. Instead of signing with the NBA G League, he chose to play in the Premier A Slovenian Basketball League before switching to the Total League in Luxembourg in 2015, where he scored 20.9 points on average in each game.
After returning to the US in 2016, he entered the NBA G League draft and was chosen by the Grand Rapids Drive. Zeke passed out during the final few minutes of the Drive’s final regular-season game on March 24, 2018, and was carried off the court on a stretcher. Although efforts to revive him were underway in the hospital he succumbed to abrupt cardiac arrest two days later.
Upshaw, only 26 years old, had the same deadly illness as Reggie Lewis: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
- Conrad McRae (11th January 1971-10th July 2000)
McRae, a well-known player in Europe who primarily played for European teams and in the CBA, was one of the NBA players who died on the court. He passed away at 29, shortly before realizing his dream of having a career in the NBA. The practice field is where McRae passed out on July 10, 2000.
On average, he scored 11 points each game with this 6.10-foot frame. Additionally, he participated in the Continental Basketball Association. He never had the opportunity to play for an NBA team, which is unfortunate because there were concerns about his ability to perform well as a power forward.
He was born in Brooklyn and played at Syracuse from 1989 to 1993. After earning his Syracuse degree in 1993, he rose to fame at Brooklyn Tech. During his senior year, he scored approximately 13 points each game.
McRae was selected by the Washington Bullets in the second round of the 1993 NBA Draft while still a student. He didn’t play, though, and started playing in Italy, then Turkey, where he was an All-Star. He was a good man, earning the moniker McNasty. McRae was ranked sixth among all-time great shot blockers at his school.
Basketball player McRae played the center position and frequently experienced blackouts. The physicians urged him to give up the game. But his greatest ambition was to play in the NBA. He died from a heart attack on July 10, 2000, while hooping.
The bottom line
Off the field, players have died of natural causes for reasons. Sadly, many were either at the peak of their careers or, in the instance of Len Bias, just starting on promising ones. The loss of life is tragic in any circumstance, and some players have had the unfortunate luck of passing away while playing or on the court.