Bison Dele died almost two decades ago, and although his brother Miles Dabord confessed to killing him, we’ll never know Dele’s version.
Former NBA star Bison Dele thought he would live the retirement of his dreams by exploring the world, but his own brother Miles Dabord cut his life short. He was only 33 years old.
THE CAREER OF BISON DELE
Formerly known as Brian Williams, Dele played on a few NBA teams before joining the Chicago Bulls and winning the championship in the 1996-97 season.
After that, he played with the Detroit Pistons for just two seasons, and although he was still in his prime at age 30, he retired, stepping away from $ 35 million. His eccentric demeanor made the headlines when he was a professional basketball player.
The late 6-foot-11 center frequently traveled to Europe with just a backpack and a few clothes. He also ran with bulls in Pamplona, ââSpain, and scared his Pistons teammates by joking that he would pull the emergency exit hatch in the middle of a robbery.
Apart from that, he honored his Cherokee ancestry by changing his name to Bison Dele, his first ancestor (on his mother’s side of the family) who was enslaved.
DELE’S FINAL DESTINATION
Dele took his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, and brother, Miles Dabord (formerly known as Kevin Williams) to the South Pacific Ocean as part of his desire to explore the world.
It all started on May 2 when the group set off from Auckland, New Zealand on Dele’s catamaran. Hakuna Matata, named after the famous phrase of the “Lion King” which means “no worries”.
In July 2002, they were to sail from Moorea, Tahiti, to Honolulu, Hawaii. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when Dele, Karlan and 55ft boat captain Bertrand Saldo disappeared.
Two months after their departure from Moorea, their bodies were still undiscovered, so the case was nothing less than a mystery. According to Andrew Black, spokesperson for the FBI, they interviewed people who may have information about the family’s disappearance, mainly because the Hakuna Matata had not been found either.
One of the main suspects in the case was Dele’s brother, Dabord. He was the only member of the group seen after July 8, the day after Karlan left a phone message at his parents’ home saying everything was fine.
If that wasn’t enough to make him a person of interest, Dabord aroused suspicion in early September 2002 when he attempted to buy Phoenix $ 150,000 in gold by pretending to be his brother.
Phoenix Police questioned him as part of the identity theft investigation, but he convinced them Dele had sent him to collect the gold, so he was never arrested.
Shortly after being interrogated, he left the country and fled to Tijuana, Mexico. Dabord’s mother, Patricia Phillips, confessed to receiving a distraught call from her.
Worked up to a successful southpaw set, Cement-bound Bison Dele moves down the aisle tonight. I will probably tweet about it tmrw pic.twitter.com/gQqYW6oxEX
– Kelly Dwyer (@KDonhoops) June 28, 2017
He allegedly told her that he would not hurt his brother and asked him to believe him. He added that he needed to know that she loved him before he died. First said:
“I can’t go to jail. You know my personality is the kind that I can’t survive in jail. No one will believe my story.”
At the time, authorities were unwilling to say if he was a suspect in his brother’s disappearance, but that changed shortly after his ex-girlfriend Erica Wiese’s statement resolved the case.
Brian Williams (before becoming Bison Dele) plays on the saxophone (from 1998): pic.twitter.com/pXvRzIVf
– SI safe (@si_vault) May 15, 2012
THE FIRST POINT OF VIEW
Wiese told investigators that Dabord told him about what happened. On July 7, 2002, the two brothers quarreled aboard the Hakuna Matata.
Karlan got involved, trying to interrupt the fight, but suffered a fatal injury. Saldo, the captain, wanted to report Karlan’s murder to the authorities, so Dele would have killed him.
Dabord and Dele’s fight resumed soon after, and Dabord ended up shooting his younger brother. He then dumped the bodies into the sea and moored the catamaran at the east coast port of Taravao, Tahiti. The bodies were never found.
Authorities struggled to find the departing ship because it was not registered as Hakuna Matata but under a new name, Aria bella.
Once they found the ship, police and FBI agents began investigating it on board. However, no bloodstains or other signs of foul play were found on the boat.
Even without blood or body, Dabord was the prime suspect. His life story – including how his younger brother overshadowed him – eventually made headlines.
UNDERSTANDING THE DELE RELATIONSHIP AND FIRST
Like his famous brother, Dabord was quite tall (6ft 8in) and avid sports. He ran, swam, and played water polo and basketball, but was never able to be successful as a professional due to his severe case of asthma.
Over the years, Dele’s success in the NBA grew and Dabord’s life lacked stability. He couldn’t keep a job, moved frequently to different towns in the West, and relied on Dele’s charity to buy cars or motorcycles. Dele and Dabord’s mom said:
“Miles has always been in his shadow. He always felt like he wasn’t as appreciated or loved. I’m sure that was at stake for the last six months on this boat.”
Dabord’s search lasted for weeks, and he was later found in a coma at Scripps Hospital in Chula Vista, California. The unidentified person who took Dabord to the hospital listed him as John Doe, but his fingerprints ultimately revealed his identity.
Further investigations found he had attempted suicide by overdosing on insulin and not taking medication for his asthma.
At the end of September 2002, Dabord was removed from life support and died surrounded by close family members. It is essential to stress that Dabord has never been indicted for the disappearances and murders of Dele, Karlan and Saldo.
According to Wiese, the incident was likely a fight that “ended badly.” As for gold, Dabord may have wanted him to do “what he could” to escape and survive on the run. When he gave it up, he overdosed.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines are available at befrienders.org.
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