Fallen NFL star OJ Simpson dies of cancer

Source: X/OJ Simpson

OJ Simpson, the controversial former NFL star who was acquitted of murder in the mid-1990s in a case dubbed the “trial of the century”, has died of cancer at the age of 76.

Before the trial, Simpson was a running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, and he later served jail time for armed robbery.

His children announced the news of his death on X, saying: “On April 10, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer.

“He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace. The Simpson Family.”

In February 2024, Simpson posted a video dismissing rumours he was in hospice care and saying all was well.

Acting career

Simpson retired from the NFL in 1979, after which an acting career beckoned, with Hollywood moguls beating a well-worn path to his door.

He became a TV glory boy as a commentator and then an actor.

A young Simpson was among the supporting cast of 1976 thriller The Cassandra Crossing, as he transformed from American football star to movie hero.

He got the part after it was turned down by James Coburn.

Simpson also featured in the 1989 comedy film The Naked Gun: From the Files Of Police Squad! – which also starred Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley and George Kennedy.

He revisited his role as a detective sidekick in the Naked Gun follow-ups The Smell Of Fear and The Final Insult.

Simpson also appeared in 1974 drama The Klansman, disaster film The Towering Inferno and starred in his own hidden-camera prank TV show Juiced With OJ Simpson.

Nicole Brown Simpson, left, and Ron Goldman. Photo: AAP

The trial

At the height of his fame and fortune, Simpson was charged with the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

The trial was a media sensation that gripped the world for nearly nine months, and ended with his acquittal.

Famously, Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian’s father Robert Kardashian was a member of Simpson’s defence team.


The car chase that led to Simpson’s arrest and the subsequent trial were televised live.

In 1997, a civil suit brought by the victims’ families found him liable for the deaths.

Simpson was later jailed following an armed robbery in Las Vegas in 2007. He served a lengthy sentence before being released in 2017.

He was discharged from parole in December 2021.

The People V OJ Simpson: American Crime Story – which aired in 2016 – won several Emmys for its portrayal of the former NFL star’s murder trial.

It starred Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr as Marcia Clark and OJ Simpson respectively in the 10-part dramatisation of the trial that mesmerised the world in 1994.

The series also starred Sterling K Brown, John Travolta, Friends star David Schwimmer and Kenneth Choi.

“I remember watching the Knicks game and then turning it to the chase and putting the game on the radio and listening to it – but watching the chase so we didn’t miss anything crazy,” Gooding Jr said on the red carpet in 2016.

“I played this character to some degree before in Jerry Maguire, I studied these flamboyant marquee athletes and I believe that there is something about their personalities when they are young and show that special skill that they get shielding from social interaction so when their career is over they still have that infantile frame of mind. So that motivated a lot of my performance.”

Travolta, who played Simpson’s defence lawyer Robert Shapiro, said: “It’s probably the most prominent celebrity crime story that ever happened. It was part of our American history with our favourite sport.”

Schwimmer, who played Robert Kardashian, said the elements in the case created a perfect storm.

Simpson reacts as he is found not guilty of murder. Photo: AAP

“There were so many factors that went into this tragic story, it’s almost at the level of a Greek myth, of this incredible icon and his fall from grace,” he added at the same 2016 event.

“More than that, it was about sex and race and politics and celebrity. Unfortunately or not, it had everything that we are morbidly fascinated by.”

OJ Simpson in action for the Buffalo Bills in November 1976. Photo: AAP

‘I was part of the history of the game’

Simpson’s fame, fortune and adulation was forged long before the notorious turn, through his dazzling football talent.

He had seemed to transcend racial barriers as the star Trojans tailback for college football’s powerful University of Southern California in the late 1960s and as a rental-car ad pitchman rushing through airports in the late 1970s.

“I’m not black, I’m OJ,” he liked to tell friends.

Simpson played 11 NFL seasons, nine of them with the Buffalo Bills, where he became known as “The Juice” and ran behind an offensive line known as “The Electric Company”.

He won four NFL rushing titles, rushed for 11,236 yards (more than 10 kilometres) in his career, scored 76 touchdowns and played in five Pro Bowls.

His best season was 1973, when he ran for 2003 yards (1800 metres) – the first running back to break the 2000-yard rushing mark.

“OJ Simpson was the first player to reach a rushing mark many thought could not be attained in a 14-game season when he topped 2000 yards. His on-field contributions will be preserved in the hall’s archives in Canton, Ohio,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said.

“The Heisman Trophy Trust mourns the passing of 1968 Heisman Trophy winner OJ Simpson. We extend our sympathy to his family,” was the reaction of the official Heisman Trophy account on X.

“I was part of the history of the game,” Simpson once said.

“If I did nothing else in my life, I’d made my mark.”


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