Bison Dele

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Bison Dele
Personal information
Born (1969-04-06)April 6, 1969
Fresno, California
Died presumed dead on July 7, 2002(2002-07-07) (aged 33)
Tahiti, French Polynesia
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)
Listed weight 260 lb (118 kg)
Career information
High school Saint Monica Catholic
(Santa Monica, California)
NBA draft 1991 / Round: 1 / Pick: 10th overall
Selected by the Orlando Magic
Playing career 1991–1999
Position Center
Number 8, 18
Career history
19911993 Orlando Magic
19931995 Denver Nuggets
1995–1996 Los Angeles Clippers
1997 Chicago Bulls
19971999 Detroit Pistons
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points 4,536 (11.0 ppg)
Rebounds 2,564 (6.2 rpg)
Blocks 355 (0.9 bpg)
Stats at

Bison Dele (born Brian Carson Williams; April 6, 1969 – presumed dead July 7, 2002) was an American professional basketball player who played center. He played for the NBA's Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons. Dele won a championship with the Bulls in 1997. He is believed to have been murdered at sea by his older brother in 2002.[1]

Early life and NCAA career[edit]

Williams was born in Fresno, California, the second son of Patricia Phillips and of singer Eugene "Geno" Williams Jr. of the musical group The Platters, who later divorced.[2] Patricia Phillips remarried and raised her two sons in Fresno until that marriage ended when Brian was in junior high.[3] He attended Saint Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica, California, where his jersey is retired.[4] He was a track and field runner, until a high school growth spurt pushed him towards basketball.[2][3] His collegiate basketball career began at the University of Maryland, where he played for one year before sitting out the next season while transferring to the University of Arizona.

Pro basketball career[edit]


After playing for two seasons at Arizona, he was drafted in the first round of the 1991 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. He saw limited action during two seasons in Orlando.

After playing for Orlando, Williams joined the Denver Nuggets, for whom he played for two seasons. In 1993–94, he played a career-high 80 games and averaged 8.0 points per game. He subsequently played one year for the Los Angeles Clippers, earning increased playing time and averaging 15.8 points per game. Due to a contract dispute and reports that Williams' asking price was too high, he could not find a team at the beginning of the 1996–97 season, sitting out most of the season. He was then signed by the Chicago Bulls nine games before the end of the season and became an important backup player in the Bulls' run to their fifth championship. He finished his career playing two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, where he set career highs of 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in 1997–98.

In 1998, he changed his name to Bison Dele to honor his Native American (Cherokee)[3] and African ancestry, and played his final season under that name.


Dele, who was known for his eccentric behavior, suddenly retired from the NBA in an equally perplexing fashion. He retired before the start of the 1999–2000 season at age 30, when he was still in the prime of his career. He had been the Pistons' highest-paid player, but had strained relationships with the organization and decided to walk away from the remaining five years and US$36.45 million on his contract rather than be traded.[5] It has also been theorized he had never been especially passionate about playing basketball and felt he had earned enough money to allow him to walk away from the pro game and lifestyle.[2]


Dele reportedly dated Madonna at one point in his career.[1][6] He played the saxophone, violin and trumpet, enjoyed adventure travel, and earned a pilot's licence. After his retirement he spent long periods traveling to Lebanon, the Mediterranean, and in Australia's Outback before learning to sail and purchasing a catamaran to sail the seven seas.[3]

Disappearance in the South Pacific[edit]

On July 6, 2002 Dele and his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, along with skipper Bertrand Saldo, sailed from Tahiti on Dele's catamaran, the Hukuna Matata.[3] Dele's brother, Miles Dabord (born Kevin Williams), was the only person involved in the voyage who was seen or heard from after July 8, 2002, when the last of three satellite phone calls from the voyage was made.[3] Dele and Karlan had previously kept regular contact with their banks and family members. On July 20, 2002 Miles Dabord brought the boat into Tahiti; he was alone aboard the vessel.[7]

On September 5, 2002 police used a sting operation organized by Dele's family and friends to detain Dabord in Phoenix, Arizona. Dabord had forged his brother's signature in order to buy US$152,000 worth of gold under his brother's name. He had used Dele's passport as identification.[8] Mexican police later found that Dabord had been staying at a hotel in Tijuana, Mexico. Two days before, the Hukuna Matata, which had been registered in Tahiti under another name, was found off the coast of Tahiti with its name plate removed and some possible bullet holes patched. About the same time, Dabord phoned his and Dele's mother, Patricia Phillips, telling her that he would never hurt his brother and that he could not survive in prison.[9]

The FBI became involved in the investigation along with the French authorities and concluded that Dele, Karlan and Saldo were probably killed and then thrown overboard, or forced to walk off the boat into the ocean, by Dabord. Given that the bodies were likely dumped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it would be highly unlikely that the three would ever be found.[2][8]

Dabord, the only first-person source of information regarding the case, intentionally overdosed on insulin and slipped into a coma. On September 27, 2002 Dabord died in a California hospital. In his account of events, Dabord said he and his brother had fought, that Karlan had been accidentally hit and died when her head struck part of the boat. The captain Saldo had wanted to report her death and a panicked Dele had killed him; Dabord then shot his brother in self-defense, threw the bodies overboard and subsequently fled back to the U.S.[3] After Dabord's suicide, officials did not expect to find much more regarding the case. A memorial service was then held for both Dabord and Dele.

Dabord and Dele were frequently at odds with each other. After Dabord's death, his lawyer and lifelong best friend, Paul White, was questioned regarding his client but gave little information about what happened. Dabord had said that he knew for sure that Dele and Karlan were in French Polynesia, but not much more other than that he was trying to help Dele.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Keown, Tim (October 3, 2002). "Paradise Lost". ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Michael BeDan; Brian D. Crecente (October 12, 2002). "DEARLY DEPARTED THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BISON DELE AND MILES DABORD WAS FILLED WITH LOVE, JEALOUSY - AND UNANSWERED QUESTIONS.(Sports)". Rocky Mountain News – via HighBeam Research. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ballard, Chris (October 21, 2013). "Lost Soul". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ Pugmire, Lance (January 30, 2003). "Dabord's Autopsy Released". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Pistons' Dele Retires". CBS News. The Associated Press. 1999-10-22. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  6. ^ Cohen: An Unsolved Mystery
  7. ^ The Associated Press (2002-09-15). "Witnesses say Dele's brother brought boat in alone". ESPN. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  8. ^ a b c Michael Bedan; Brian D. Crecente (2002-10-12). "Dearly Departed". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  9. ^ The Associated Press (2002-09-12). "Ex-NBA star Dele, girlfriend missing in Pacific". ESPN. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 

External links[edit]