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OJ Simpson passes away: From NFL hero to accused in trial of the century - a look at American star's life

With his passing at the age of 76, OJ Simpson's life remains intertwined with the haunting specter of the past, overshadowing his once-glamorous career and accomplishments in sports and entertainment.

OJ Simpson passes away: From NFL hero to accused in trial of the century - a look at American star's life snt
First Published Apr 11, 2024, 9:29 PM IST

O.J. Simpson, renowned for his stellar achievements in American football, seemed to have it all with his striking appearance, widespread recognition, and substantial wealth. However, his seemingly charmed life took a dark turn in 1994 when he became embroiled in the murder case of his ex-wife and another individual.

Despite his earlier acquittal in 1995, Simpson's legacy was forever marred by his association with the tragic deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The highly publicized and racially charged trial captivated the nation, earning the moniker of "The Trial of the Century."

Ultimately, Simpson's fall from grace culminated in a later conviction for his involvement in an ill-fated armed robbery, resulting in his incarceration. With his passing at the age of 76, Simpson's life remains intertwined with the haunting specter of the past, overshadowing his once-glamorous career and accomplishments in sports and entertainment.

Simpson's dramatic downfall followed a meteoric ascent to fame, a journey that began in humble beginnings and culminated in both sports and entertainment stardom. Rising from a childhood marked by poverty, he achieved unparalleled success on the football field before transitioning seamlessly to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. However, this trajectory was abruptly halted by the tumultuous events that unfolded, forever altering the trajectory of his life and casting a shadow over his once-gilded reputation.

From rags to NFL stardom

Born Orenthal James Simpson on July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, he faced adversity from a young age when his father departed, leaving him in the care of his mother. Growing up in poverty, Simpson battled rickets, a condition caused by a deficiency in calcium and vitamins that affected his leg development.

Facing financial constraints, Simpson's mother improvised makeshift braces by swapping shoes between his feet, leading to his legs strengthening over time. Remarkably, he transformed his physical limitations into strengths, ultimately showcasing his remarkable speed by sprinting 100 yards in an impressive 9.9 seconds.

Simpson's athletic prowess was further validated when he clinched the prestigious Heisman Trophy in 1968 while playing for the University of Southern California. Subsequently, he was selected as the top overall pick in the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills in the following year, solidifying his status as a football prodigy.

In 1973, Simpson attained the NFL's Most Valuable Player accolade, a testament to his unparalleled skill on the field, notably becoming the first rusher to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in a single season.

Following his retirement from football in 1979, Simpson's illustrious career was further cemented with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, an honor reflective of his enduring impact on the sport.

Transitioning from the gridiron to the realm of sports broadcasting, Simpson briefly explored a new avenue before redirecting his ambitions towards Hollywood. Timing proved fortuitous as he entered the film industry during a period when there was a growing demand for greater representation of Black talent on screen, a trend he capitalized on.

While Simpson made notable appearances in several successful films such as "The Towering Inferno," "The Naked Gun" series, and "Capricorn One," he never quite attained the coveted status of A-list stardom in Hollywood. Nonetheless, he found considerable success in the realm of corporate endorsements, leveraging his charisma and recognizability to secure lucrative deals with brands like Royal Crown Cola, Schick, Foster Grant, TreeSweet orange juice, and Wilson Sporting Goods.

However, Simpson became most renowned for his iconic Hertz rental car commercials, in which he, famously dubbed "The Juice" from his football days, dashed through bustling airport terminals clad in a sharp three-piece suit. These advertisements not only solidified his status as a household name but also showcased his enduring appeal and athleticism to audiences worldwide.

Prime suspect

In 1977, Simpson crossed paths with Nicole Brown, then an 18-year-old waitress, at a disco on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, while still married to his first wife, Marguerite. After divorcing Marguerite, Simpson wed Nicole in 1985, and they went on to have two children together. However, their marriage was marked by turbulence, including allegations of domestic violence, leading to their divorce in 1992.

The tragic events unfolded on June 13, 1994, when Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman were discovered murdered outside her residence in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood. Brown Simpson had been brutally stabbed in the throat, almost to the point of decapitation, sparking immediate suspicion toward Simpson as the prime suspect.

Just five days after the gruesome discovery, Simpson embarked on a dramatic car chase through the Los Angeles freeways, a gripping spectacle broadcast live to millions of viewers. He ultimately surrendered and stood trial in January 1995, a legal saga that captivated the nation and the world for nine months. The trial, punctuated by moments like Simpson struggling to fit into a pair of gloves found at the crime scene, became the subject of numerous television programs, books, and documentaries.

The trial's climax came with a verdict of not guilty, a decision that sharply divided public opinion, often along racial lines. Despite this acquittal, Simpson's encounters with the law were far from over.

In 2007, he found himself entangled in legal troubles once more when he was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with armed robbery, assault, and kidnapping following a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers. Simpson asserted that he was merely attempting to retrieve items from his sports career that the dealers had allegedly taken from him.

Following his second encounter with the law, Simpson was convicted and sentenced to serve a term ranging from nine to 33 years in prison. He remained incarcerated until October 2017 when he was released.

After his release, Simpson maintained a relatively low profile, although he occasionally interacted with fans via social media platforms.

His infamous saga became the subject of "The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story," a critically acclaimed television series that garnered multiple Emmy awards, including outstanding limited series. Through this portrayal, the public was given a dramatic retelling of the events surrounding Simpson's trials, further fueling fascination and debate surrounding his life and legacy.

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