The National Basketball Association and the Detroit Pistons failed to save the life of a minor league player who collapsed during a game even though they knew sudden cardiac death risks were prevalent among players, a federal complaint alleges.

The negligence complaint filed May 30 by the mother of Zena “Zeke” Upshaw, who played for the Grand Rapids Drive, adopts an approach to cardiac deaths in basketball players similar to that seen in concussion litigation against the National Football League,...