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The Unlikely Rise And Fall Of A Former NBA Champion Gone Rogue: The Bison Dele Story

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The Unlikely Rise And Fall Of A Former NBA Champ Gone Rogue: The Bison Dele Story

NBA players live fascinating lives. With all the money and fame that comes with being an NBA player, it's not hard to see why.

Who could walk away from it all, especially after signing the biggest contract of their career? Bison Dele could and he did.

Wait, you've never heard of Bison Dele? That's okay, maybe you never have. I'll tell you about him now.

Bison Dele was born to the name of Brian Williams. For most of his playing days in the NBA, he went by his birth name.

It wasn't till 1998 when Brian Williams decided to change his name. The name Bison Dele was a nod to honor his Native American (Cherokee) and African ancestry.

When you think of players in the NBA, you think of the passion they must have to be able to play at the highest level. You even hear many players say they play for the “love of the game."

That wasn't the case for Bison Dele. He didn't care for the game at all, it was just a means to an end. Dele wanted the money from an NBA career, but nothing more.

Let's rewind back to Dele's early life. He was born on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1969.

Dele wouldn't be the first famous person in his family, in fact, his father, Eugene "Geno" Williams Jr., was a member of the 50s musical group, The Platters.

Unfortunately for Dele, his parents would divorce in 1970, and Dele would grow up without a father figure. Now, Dele wouldn't be the only “man” in the house, he had an older brother named Kevin Williams.

Like how Brian Williams changed his name to Bison Dele, brother Kevin also changed his name, he would now be known as Miles Dabord.

Bison and Miles almost looked identical, even though Miles was two years older. The brothers' similarities ended in their physical appearances.

Bison Dele was a natural athlete, but it wasn't basketball where he originally excelled at. Dele ran track in school and was quite good at it.

By the tenth grade, Dele went through a growth spurt that basically forced him into the game of basketball by his school's coaches.

Dele didn't care much for the game but he quickly proved he was a natural. By the time he was a senior at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dele proved to be someone colleges had to keep their eyes on.

Bison Dele's Sr. High School Stats:

- 17.3 points per game

- 12.7 rebounds per game

- 2.1 assists per game

- 2.5 steals per game

- 9.1 blocks per game

- 57.7% field goal percentage

Bison Dele played his freshman year of college ball at the University of Maryland where he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After his freshman year, Dele transferred to Arizona to play for the Wildcats. Dele would go on to play two years at Arizona before declaring for the NBA Draft in 1991.

Bison Dele's College Stats:

- 12.4 points per game

- 6.5 rebounds per game

- 1.2 blocks per game

- 59.4% field goal percentage

While Bison Dele was enjoying an incredible athletic career, Miles Dabord was not having any success athletically.

Dabord's lack of athletic success wasn't because he wasn't motivated, it was because he suffered from severe asthma.

Dabord was socially awkward and while his brother was making it big, Dabord was falling into a deep depression. He became an alcoholic, and he blamed his brother's success for his problems.

Things got so bad for Dabord that he attempted suicide on more than one occasion.

While his brother, Bison Dele, was being drafted in the NBA at the 10th pick by the Orlando Magic, Dabord was going town to town, jumping from job to job.

Dabord would rely on Dele's charity to keep him from sleeping on the streets, which sounds like Dele was being a “good big brother”, but in reality, the brothers never got along.

To Dele, helping his brother felt like an obligation, rather than brotherly love. As Dabord was spiraling out of control, it would soon be known he wasn't the only one.

Bison Dele played two years in Orlando for the Magic, but things weren't as great as they may have seem.

Dele was extremely unhappy during his time in Orlando, and in fact, he fell into a deep depression just like his brother.

Bison Dele's diagnosis of clinical depression became one of the first cases of mental health issues for an NBA player to go public.

Things would get worse for Dele. Like his brother, Dele would attempt suicide by overdose of sleeping pills.

The Orlando Magic removed Dele from their active roster indefinitely because of his condition.

The suicide attempt wasn't the first time the Magic noticed something was wrong with Dele. First, he passed out in practice while guarding Shaquille O'Neal. Dele also crashed his car into a telephone pole, which may have been on purpose.

After being removed from the Magic's active roster, Dele told people closest to him that his depression came strictly from his unhappiness in Orlando. Dele would get his wish of leaving Orlando the next season, as he signed to play for the Denver Nuggets.

Like in Orlando, after two seasons, Dele was on the move again, this time to Los Angeles to play for the Clippers. In the 1995-96 season for the LA Clippers, Dele would average, at the time, a career-high 15.8 points per game.

After the 1995-96 season, Dele got into a contract dispute with the Clippers, and he was willing to sit out the entire season, which almost happened. The Clippers would cut ties with Dele and with only nine games remaining in the season, one team came calling for his services… the Chicago Bulls.

Yes, the same Bulls team that won 72 games and the title in the previous season was looking for Dele's services. He signed with the Bulls and played in the remaining nine games.

In the playoffs, Bison Dele showcased to everyone why the Bulls reached out to him. He played big in a few key games against the Atlanta Hawks in the Conference Semifinals. 

After the Hawks shocked the Bulls by beating them in game 2 in Chicago by a score of 103-95, Phil Jackson decided to shake things up for game 3. Jackson went to Dele, giving him extended minutes, and boy did it pay off. In game 2, Dele went scoreless in less than five minutes of playing time. In game 3, Dele played 22 minutes and scored 14 points while grabbing 5 rebounds. Dele's impact would remain for the rest of the Hawks series, as the Bulls went on to win two more games, to win the series 4-1.

In the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz, Dele played with an intense energy that the Bulls certainly needed off the bench. He even scored 16 points in game 3, though the Bulls lost that game.

The Chicago Bulls, as you know, went on to win the championship and Bison Dele was now an NBA champ.

Bison Dele's NBA Finals Stats:

- 6.8 points per game

- 3.3 rebounds per game

- 1.0 steals per game

- 47.2% field goal percentage

- 20.2 minutes per game

After winning the championship with Chicago, the Bulls let Dele go, and Dele found himself a home in Detroit with the Pistons. Dele's seven-year, $45 million deal with the Pistons made him the highest-paid player on the team. In his first year as a Piston, Dele put up career highs in points (16.2) and rebounds (8.9).

The next season was the NBA lockout year, and once the league resumed play, Dele's play regressed. He only averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

It appeared that Dele fell back into a depression that season. According to an article by Jeff Goldberg of tiebreaker.com, Dele tried to open the emergency hatch on the Pistons team charter…

Remember how at the beginning of this article I said, “who could walk away from it all, especially after signing the biggest contract of their career?”

Then I mentioned that Bison Dele could, and he did. That's exactly what happened after the 1998-99 NBA season. Dele walked from the remaining five years on his contract and $36.45 million.

Bison Dele's NBA Career Stats:

- 11.0 points per game

- 6.2 rebounds per game

- 1.1 assists per game

- 52.8% field goal percentage

- NBA Champion

As I stated before, Bison Dele did not like basketball, he only played to make good money. He made the money and yet, he was still unhappy playing professional basketball.

So, Dele did exactly what he wanted to do, he retired to the life of a world traveler.

Yes, Dele was living the “good life” after retiring, he was finally happy. His adventures saw him running with the bulls in Spain, to traveling throughout Europe with nothing more than a backpack.

Dele would also DJ at parties, he'd play the saxophone, heck, he even reportedly dated Madonna for some time.

Then Dele wanted to up his adventures even more. First, he got his pilot's license, and shortly after he learned how to sail a boat.

While Dele was living “the life”, his brother, Miles Dabord, was homeless and hadn't seen his family in years.

Dele, along with his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, and captain Bertrand Saldo, were sailing the South Pacific in Dele's 55-foot catamaran that he named Hukuna Matata.

They ended up in Tahiti, and planned to sail to Hawaii on July 6, 2002. Then, an unexpected visitor showed up… it was Miles Dabord.

Apparently, Dabord wanted to amend his relationship with Dele, and he invited himself to go along for the ride.

This is where the story turns dark. Usually, when Dele sailed the ocean, he'd always keep in radio contact with family and friends.

Over the next two days, three satellite calls came from the Hukuna Matata. One of the last calls was from Serena Karlan. She told the caller, who was Dele's financial advisor, Kevin Porter, that “everyone was happy and having a good time.”

After the second day, no more calls would come from the Hukuna Matata. In fact, there would be no sign of the boat until

July 16.

The Hukuna Matata would be seen pulling into the Phaeton Bay Marina in Taravao, along Tahiti’s southeastern shore. The thing was, the boat was renamed, Aria Bella.

Witnesses reported seeing a man fitting Dabord’s description and that's it. Nobody else was on the boat.

On closer examination of the name on the boat, it was reported that you could see the traced outline of the name Hukuna Matata.

Dabord returned to the United States alone on July 20. Authorities kept their eyes on him, but there wasn't much they could do. With Dele's come-and-go lifestyle, it wasn't out of the norm to have him leave for lengthy periods of time.

It wasn't reported till later, but on July 8, Dabord was seen in the port of Moorea. There he spent a week with his girlfriend, Erica Wiese.

While with Weise, Dabord supposedly told her that Dele and Karlan were on another island, while Saldo was also in Moorea with friends.

Things remained relatively quiet on the disappearance of Dele, Karlan, or Saldo until Sept. 5, 2002. A man claiming to be Bison Dele entered the Certified Mint, a Phoenix-area coin shop.

The man had Bison Dele's passport and credit cards. The man even looked similar to Bison. Yes, it was Miles Dabord.

A month earlier, Dabord contacted the mint in an attempt to purchase $500,000 worth of gold coins.

After some negotiation, Dabord, acting like Dele, bought $152K of gold. A check from one of Dele’s bank accounts was sent to the mint, where it was deposited and cleared.

Red flags were immediately raised, as Dele's bank contacted Kevin Porter and explained that the address on the check had been changed.

A different phone number was also given than Dele's phone number. So, Porter called the number and listened to the voicemail message. The voice did not match that of Bison Dele.

Fast forward back to September 5th, Porter contacted the authorities and they were waiting at the mint. There they detained Dabord.

Miles Dabord was ready with an explanation. He claimed Dele bought the coins and sent Dabord to go in and pick them up. Without Dele to back this claim, the authorities had no choice but to release him.

Just days after Dabord's release, the world began to learn of Bison Dele, Serena Karlan, and Bertrand Saldo's disappearance.

Authorities learned the story of Dabord piloting the boat back into port. With law enforcement getting on his trail, Dabord went on the run.

He reunited with his girlfriend, Erica Weise, in San Francisco. There he gave his side of the story.

Dabord told Weise that a fight broke out on the boat between him and Dele.

Karlan attempted to break them up and was accidentally knocked to the deck by Dele, hitting her head on a boat cleat. She died from the injury.

Then, according to Dabord, he and Dele continued to fight as Saldo told the brothers that they must return to port and report Karlan's death to the authorities.

Dabord then said that Dele responded by killing Saldo by beating him with a wrench. Fearing for his life, Dabord took Dele's gun and shot him to death.

What makes Dabord's story unbelievable is what happened next. Dabord told Weise he tied weights that he found on the boat and tied them to the deceased bodies.

There, Dabord tossed the bodies into the ocean to never be seen again. First, that seems like something you wouldn't do if Dele killed the two others, and you killed Dele in self-defense.

But to make it worse for Dabord, FBI evidence discovered Dabord bought about $200 of weights from a sporting store, not too long before the boat ride.

After telling his story to Weise, Dabord fled to Mexico, while Weise contacted the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, who contacted the FBI.

A massive manhunt went into effect for Miles Dabord, and they would find him lying unconscious on a beach in Tijuana.

Dabord overdosed on insulin. He was transported back across the border to a hospital in the San Diego area.

Two weeks later, while in a coma, Dabord was taken off life support on September 28.

With Miles Dabord gone, the world would never truly discover the truth of what happened out on the open ocean.

Brian Williams aka Bison Dele lived a troubled life. But for two short instances, he felt true happiness.

First, as a member of the Chicago Bulls, then when he retired and traveled the world.

It's sad to know we'll probably never know the truth of what happened to Bison Dele, but what he taught us while he was here, is to live the life that makes you happy. Go live it.

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