During his eight-year NBA career Bison Dele was one of the most enigmatic figures in basketball. A talented 6'11" forward for five teams, who struggled with clinical depression, he was also a man of the world. He played the trumpet (his father, Gene, was a founding member of the '50s singing group The Platters), flew his own airplane and ran with the bulls in Pamplona. When the FBI reported last week that Dele and two friends were feared lost in the South Pacific, the news only deepened the mystery that surrounded him. "He was definitely his own man," says Steve Kerr, Dele's teammate with the 1997 world champion Bulls when Dele was known as Brian Williams. "He was doing something he loved."
The 33-year-old Dele, who was planning to sail from Tahiti to Honolulu, has been missing since July 8, along with his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, 30, and Bertrand Saldo, 32, the captain of Dele's 55-foot catamaran. Although friends and family say Dele and Karlan checked in regularly before then, nobody began to worry until last month. On Aug. 31 Dele's bank informed his business manager, Kevin Porter, that a check for $152,000 had been drawn on Dele's account to purchase gold coins from Certified Mint, a Phoenix dealership. Knowing that his client had not written a personal check in 10 years, Porter notified authorities. On Sept. 5 Miles Dabord (a.k.a. Kevin Williams), 35, who is Dele's brother and who had been with the missing shipmates when they were in Tahiti, was taken in for questioning by Phoenix police after they found Dele's passport, checkbook and two of his credit cards in Dabord's possession. The police did not charge Dabord at the time, though they have since issued an arrest warrant for identity theft and forgery. On Sept. 6 Dabord flew to Palo Alto, Calif., and hasn't been seen since. The FBI, which issued an arrest warrant for Dabord last Friday, is searching for him in Mexico and also has agents in Tahiti. Says Scott Ohlgren, Karlan's stepfather, "I don't really hold a whole lot of hope anymore."