Remembering the life of Bison Dele, and his mysterious death


The Magic are celebrating their 25th Anniversary this season. Amway Center is decked out inside and out with the 25th Anniversary logo and nostalgia is firmly in the air. There are going to be great retrospectives of the team and its history and recognition of its great players.

There will be plenty of other former Magic players that I am sure we will recognize throughout the season.

Of course, there is one former Magic player who will not be able to join the festivities. That would be former first round pick Bison Dele.

In a recent story by Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated, he recapped Dele's life and the person he was. He also dug a bit into Dele's mysterious death that made him much more famous than his eight-year career.

It has been 11 years since the NBA player’s catamaran went missing off the coast of Tahiti and the FBI descended upon this small island in the middle of the Pacific, flanked by journalists, asking questions about murder and love and fame. Eleven years since the TV reenactments and the breathless tabloid reports. Eleven years, and the mystery remains unsolved.

Many on the island have forgotten. Others prefer not to speak about what occurred. “It has been so long,” they say, averting their eyes. “That has nothing to do with us.” Tahiti relies on tourism, on its reputation as a paradise on earth; why talk about death?

Dig deeper, though, and you can find those who remember. Not just what happened, but what came before.

The Magic drafted him with the 10th pick in the 1991 Draft. He played in 69 games over two seasons, averaging 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in about 16.6 minutes per game. He found success in his next stops with the Clippers and Pistons and even won a title with the Bulls.

Dele, known as Brian Williams when he was with the Magic before changing his name to honor his Cherokee and African heritage, was a supremely talented player but remained a mystery both on and off the court throughout his career.

His initial time in the NBA with the Magic even had its ups and downs as Ballard relates:

Williams’s friends felt he remained haunted by his childhood. While with the Magic he played only 21 games during the 1992–93 season as he battled clinical depression. He was erratic at practices, once passing out while guarding teammate Shaquille O’Neal in a five-on-five drill. One night he swallowed 15 sleeping pills. Another time he crashed his car into a pole. Williams later said the events were overblown, and he related both to his unhappiness in Orlando—he bemoaned the city as “sterile” and “made for tourists”—and the 2,000 calorie-a-day diet he was on. “I grew up a vegetarian, and I wanted to be superhealthy,” he told SI in 1998. “Of course I wasn’t consulting anyone on this. The lack of protein and iron in my diet finally ran me down.”

It was a rough time for Dele in Orlando. As the article describes, he was extremely perceptive and reserved. He had bigger ideas than just playing basketball. He had a thirst for life beyond the NBA and in the world. Ballard does a very good job bringing that out and trying to piece together Dele's life and his death.

Please give it a read.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily