Orenthal James "O. J." Simpson (born July 9, 1947) is a former American football player and actor.
Growing up in San Francisco, Simpson had a troubled upbringing but managed to turn his life around and went to the City College of San Francisco. Transferring to the University of Southern California, he participated in track and field and in Collegiate American Football as a running back, earning the Heisman Trophy for college football's best player in 1968. Nicknamed "Juice" because of his shared initials with a certain fruit drink, the name soon became associated with his positively electric bursts of speed and power.
Drafted #1 overall in 1969 by the Buffalo Bills, he led the National Football League in rushing four seasons. Most famously, he put up the NFL's first ever 2,000-yard rushing season in the 14-game 1973 season. This was arguably the greatest single season any running back has ever had; while seven other running backs have since passed his total record, they each had an extra two games in their efforts and none even came close to his per-game average of 143.1 yards. That performance made him one of only a few people to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player while on a non-playoff team.note Simpson would later set a single-season TD record in 1976 (since passed) as well as a record for most 200-yard rushing games (6, only since tied by Adrian Peterson and Derrick Henry).
Simpson's football career was cut somewhat short by injury, and he retired in 1979 after a brief stint with the 49ers. After he retired from football, Simpson became a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a broadcaster for Monday Night Football, the celebrity spokesman for Hertz car rental, and co-starred in The Naked Gun film trilogy.
In June 1994, his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood. Simpson was named a person of interest, but he refused to turn himself in, instead leading police on a bizarre and infamous low-speed pursuit through the highways of California in a white Ford Bronco owned by his friend, Al Cowlings, before turning himself in after arriving at his Brentwood residence.
What followed would be called the "Trial of the Century". In the lengthy, high-profile trial, Simpson was controversially acquitted on two counts of murder in October 1995. The verdict wound up splitting public opinion and would go on to become an infamous episode in American history due to the complete media circus that surrounded it. In spite of (or perhaps even because of) the trial's outcome, Simpson's carefully tailored public image as a Nice Guy was irrevocably damaged, and afterwards he was basically a pariah without much left in the way of friends, influence, or job opportunities, with the steep fees for his expensive legal team having eaten up the lion's share of his personal funds.
In the wake of the trial, the Brown and Goldman families filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Simpson in late 1996, which found him responsible for both deaths, and forced him to cough up $33.5 million, plus an additional $12.6 million to him and Nicole's children, Sydney and Justin. The outcome of the lawsuit cleaned out what Simpson had left of his fortune after the trial, and he ended up bankrupt and more-or-less destitute.
From that point forward, Simpson kept a relatively low profile, though not for a lack of trying to make some sort of media comeback, as he desperately needed money to pay his outstanding legal debts to the Brown and the Goldman families. In 2000, he moved to Florida (one of the few American states where assets like pensions and homes can't be seized for civil debts in other states). In 2006, he attempted to get the Candid Camera Prank show Juiced with O. J. Simpson, which was clearly in the vein of Punk'd, off the ground, but it only managed to last for a one-off TV special.
Also in 2006, Simpson attempted to release a ghost-written book about the murders titled If I Did It, claimed by him to be a work of "complete fiction" and containing a "hypothetical" description of the infamous crime from his point of view. For this project, Simpson briefly managed to get the media conglomerate News Corporation aboard as publishers and even convinced them to make a TV special to promote the book, though they jettisoned the project after complaints from the Brown and the Goldman families. Furthermore, as Simpson was still heavily in outstanding legal debt to the Goldmans, they managed to successfully sue him for the content of book as a way of working towards paying off said debt. The book eventually saw a release in September 2007 under the title, If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, with the word "If" greatly reduced in size compared with the other words and placed inside the word "I".
In 2007, Simpson was back in the spotlight when he was arrested for armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas.note Convicted in 2008, he was sentenced to 33 years in prison. He would go on to serve the minimum amount of less than nine years, before being released on parole on October 1, 2017. He was subsequently released from parole early for good behavior on December 14, 2021.
Notable acting roles:
- The Klansman (1974)
- The Towering Inferno (1974)
- The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
- Roots (1977)
- Capricorn One (1978)
- Back to the Beach (1987)
- The Naked Gun Trilogy
- The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
- The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
- Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994)
Appearances in media:
- Saturday Night Live
- September 24, 1994
- January 21, 1995
- February 18, 1995
- December 7, 1996
- September 20, 2008
- October 7, 2017
- April 26, 2020
- January 31, 2021
- Family Guy - "The Juice is Loose" (2009)
- Black Dynamite - "The Dark Side of the Dark Side of the Moon" (2012)
- Paradise PD - "Ice Ice Babies" (2021)
- The People v. O. J. Simpson (2016)
- O.J.: Made in America (2016)