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Bison Dele
Center
Born April 6, 1969(1969-04-06)
Fresno, California
Died July 7, 2002 (aged 33)[1]
Tahiti, French Polynesia
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight 235 lb (107 kg)
College University of Arizona
Draft 10th overall, 1991
Orlando Magic
Pro career 1991–1999
Former teams Orlando Magic (1991-1993)
Denver Nuggets (1993-1995)
Los Angeles Clippers (1995-1996)
Chicago Bulls (1996-1997)
Detroit Pistons (1997-1999)

Bison Dele (April 6, 1969 – presumed dead July 7, 2002)[1] formerly known as Brian Carson Williams, was an American professional basketball player who finished his career as a center for the NBA's Detroit Pistons. He is believed by most to have been murdered at sea by his older brother in 2002.

Contents

Basketball career

Dele was born in Fresno, California, the son of singer Eugene Williams of the musical group The Platters. He attended St. Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica, California, where his jersey is retired. He began his collegiate basketball career at the University of Maryland, playing there for one year. He sat out the next season while transferring to the University of Arizona. 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. 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 with 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 and African ancestry, and played his final season under that name.

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Retirement

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.[2]

Disappearance in the South Pacific

In July 2002, Dele and his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, sailed on the South Pacific Ocean along with skipper Bertrand Saldo on Dele's catamaran, the Hakuna Matata. 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, when the party was in Tahiti. Dele and Karlan had previously kept regular contact with their banks and family members. On July 20, Dabord was by himself when he brought the boat into Tahiti.[3]

On September 5, 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.[4] Mexican police later found that Dabord had been staying at a hotel in Tijuana, Mexico. Two days before, the Hakuna 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.[5]

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, 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.[4]

Dabord, the only major source of information regarding the case, intentionally overdosed on insulin and slipped into a coma. On September 27, 2002, he died in a California hospital. 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 life-long 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.[4]

References

  1. ^ a b Missing; presumed dead
  2. ^ The Associated Press (1999-10-22). "Pistons' Dele Retires". CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1999/10/22/archive/main67585.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  3. ^ The Associated Press (2002-09-15). "Witnesses say Dele's brother brought boat in alone". ESPN. http://static.espn.go.com/nba/news/2002/0915/1432129.html. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  4. ^ a b c Michael Bedan; Brian D. Crecente (2002-10-12). "Dearly Departed". Rocky Mountain News. http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/dele/index.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  5. ^ The Associated Press (2002-09-12). "Ex-NBA star Dele, girlfriend missing in Pacific". ESPN. http://static.espn.go.com/nba/news/2002/0911/1430715.html. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 

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