Brian Williams Played in the NBA for a Decade, Disappeared at Sea in 2002

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May 4 2023, Published 10:05 a.m. ET

Although he was never the biggest star in the NBA, Brian Williams spent a decade in the league as a role player. Brian was even an essential player on the 1996–1997 Chicago Bulls, and was part of their success as the team made its fifth run for a championship.

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However, most people know of Brian for reasons that have less to do with his NBA career. They want to know what happened to him after he retired, and why there's so much mystery around his apparent 2002 disappearance.

What happened to Brian Williams in 2002?

Brian retired from the Detroit Pistons after the 1999–2000 season when he was just 30 years old. After retiring, he decided to learn how to sail, and eventually purchased a catamaran called the Hakuna Matata.

In 2002, by which point Brian had changed his name to Bison Dele (more on that in a minute), Bison and his girlfriend Serena Karlan disappeared while at sea on the Hakuna Matata, along with the boat's skipper, Bertrand Saldo.

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Bison's brother Miles Dabord (born Kevin Williams) was also on board, and he brought the boat into Tahiti on July 20, 2002, two weeks after the vessel set sail. He was alone on board. A sting operation that Bison's family was involved in revealed that Miles had used his brother's identity to purchase $152,000 worth of gold. The vessel was also found in Tahiti with its nameplate removed and what appeared to be several patched bullet holes in it.

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The FBI became involved in the investigation, and concluded that Bison, his girlfriend, and the skipper had all been murdered and thrown overboard, in all likelihood by Miles. As the heat ramped up on Miles, he intentionally overdosed on insulin and slipped into a coma. Miles died in September 2002 and any hope of ever knowing exactly what happened at sea was lost forever.

In Miles's account of the events, he and Bison got into a fight, and Serena was accidentally killed when her head struck a post on the boat. Bertrand, the boat's skipper wanted to report the death, but Bison killed him in a panic. Miles said that he was then forced to kill Bison in self-defense, and then threw all three bodies overboard. It's impossible to say for sure how accurate this account of events is.

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Brian changed his name to Bison Dele in the late 1990s.

Prior to his disappearance, Brian changed his name to Bison Dele before his last season in the NBA. At the time, Brian said that he had changed his name to honor his Native American and African ancestry.

Given the amount of intrigue around Bison's death, and the impossibility of ever knowing exactly what happened, his story may live on for years. The combination of bizarre circumstances and his high profile made the case the subject of endless speculation. Even 20 years later, there are still plenty of people who want to know more about what happened.

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