Bison Dele passed away almost two decades ago, and although his brother Miles Dabord confessed that he killed him, we will never know Dele's side of the story.
Former NBA star Bison Dele thought he would live his dream retirement by exploring the world, but his own brother Miles Dabord cut his life short. He was just 33.
BISON DELE'S CAREER
Formerly known as Brian Williams, Dele played in 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 even though he was still in his prime at 30 years old, he retired, walking away from $35 million. His eccentric attitude made headlines during his time as a professional basketball player.
The late 6-foot-11 center would frequently travel to Europe with just a knapsack and some clothes. He also ran with bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and scared his Pistons teammates by joking that he would pull the emergency exit hatch in the middle of a flight.
Apart from that, he honored his Cherokee ancestry by changing his name to Bison Dele, his first ancestor (from his mom's side of the family) that was enslaved.
DELE'S FINAL DESTINATION
Dele took his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, and his brother, Miles Dabord (formerly known as Kevin Williams), to the South Pacific Ocean as part of his desire to explore the world.
Everything started on May 2 when the group set out from Auckland, New Zealand, in Dele's catamaran Hakuna Matata, named after the famous phrase from "The Lion King" that means "no worries."
In July 2002, they were supposed to sail from Moorea, Tahiti, to Honolulu, Hawaii. Unfortunately, things took a terrible turn when Dele, Karlan, and the 55-foot boat captain Bertrand Saldo went missing.
Two months after they left Moorea, their bodies were still not discovered, so the case was nothing short of a mystery. According to Andrew Black, a spokesman for the FBI, they questioned 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 group member seen after July 8, the day after Karlan left a phone message at her parents' home saying everything was okay.
If that wasn't enough to make him a person of interest, Dabord raised suspicion in early September 2002 as he tried to buy $150,000 in gold coins in Phoenix posing as his brother.
Phoenix police interviewed him as part of the identity theft investigation, but he convinced them that Dele sent him to pick up 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 she got a distraught call from him.
He supposedly told her he wouldn't hurt his brother and asked her to believe him. He added that he needed to know she loved him before he died. Dabord said:
"I can't go to prison. You know my personality is the type that I can't survive in prison. Nobody will believe my story."
At the time, authorities wouldn't say if he was a suspect in his brother's disappearance, but that changed shortly after his ex-girlfriend Erica Wiese's statement cracked the case.
DABORD'S POINT OF VIEW
Wiese told investigators that Dabord had talked with her about what happened. On July 7, 2002., the two brothers got into a heated argument aboard the Hakuna Matata.
Karlan got involved, trying to break up the fight, but she sustained a fatal injury. Saldo, the captain, wanted to report Karlan's murder to the authorities, so Dele reportedly killed him.
Dabord and Dele's fight resumed shortly after, and Dabord ended up shooting his younger brother. He then dumped the bodies overboard and docked the catamaran at the east coast port of Taravao, Tahiti. The bodies were never recovered.
The authorities struggled to find the ship initially because it was not registered as Hakuna Matata but under a new name, Aria Bella.
Once they found the ship, police and FBI agents started the investigation aboard. No blood stains or other signs of foul play were found on the boat, though.
Even with no blood or bodies, Dabord was the main suspect. His life story — including how his younger brother overshadowed him — eventually made it to the news.
UNDERSTANDING DELE AND DABORD'S RELATIONSHIP
Just like his famous brother, Dabord was quite tall (6-foot-8) and passionate about sports. He ran, swam, and played water polo and basketball, but he could never make it as a professional due to his severe case of asthma.
As years went by, Dele's success in the NBA rose, and Dabord's life lacked stability. He couldn't keep a job, frequently moved 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 was always feeling he wasn't as valued or as loved. I'm sure that was in play over the last six months on that boat."
The search for Dabord went on for weeks, and later he was 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 eventually revealed his identity.
Further investigations discovered that he tried to take his own life by overdosing on insulin and not taking medication for his asthma condition.
In late September 2002, Dabord was removed from life support and died surrounded by close family members. It is essential to point out that Dabord was never charged for the disappearances and murders of Dele, Karlan, and Saldo.
According to Wiese, the incident was probably a fight that "ended ugly." As per the gold, Dabord may have wanted it to do "what he could" to escape and survive on the run. When he gave up on that, he overdosed.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.
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