Few people have had a place in the American consciousness for as long as OJ Simpson. He was a football star in the ’60s and 7’0s, a movie star in the ’80s and early-’90s, and the defendant in the most polarizing trial in American history in 1995.
In the 25 years since “The Trial of the Century,” OJ Simpson has had a pretty wild life. Trouble with the law plagued him all the way up until his arrest and conviction for robbery in Las Vegas in 2008.
But “Juice” was finally let out of prison in 2017, and over the last few years he’s managed to find some level of relevance on social media. With his signature “Hey Twitter world, it’s me, yours truly” catchphrase, OJ shares his thoughts on everything for his 919,000 followers all the time.
— O.J. Simpson (@TheRealOJ32) November 16, 2020
So how has OJ Simpson managed to capture the attention of millions for the better part of 50 years? Well, given that he’s been at the forefront of some of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment – sports, TV/film and celebrity gossip – it’s not too hard to see why when you really look into it.
How did OJ Simpson rise to fame?
Orenthal James “OJ Simpson” was born and raised in San Francisco in 1947. Raised by his mother in a housing project, he got into trouble as a boy and was arrested several times. But after meeting childhood idol Willie Mays, Simpson changed his ways and applied himself on the football field.
Simpson was recruited by John McKay to play for USC – the school he had loved growing up. Once he got his shot to play as a junior, he dominated opponents with his incredible speed and elusiveness.
In his two years as USC’s starter, OJ led the nation in rushing both times. He was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 1967, and won the prestigious award in 1968.
Simpson was the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 1969 NFL Draft. He went on to have a historic career with the Bills, leading the NFL in rushing four times and becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards, achieving the feat in 1973.
He won every major accolade the NFL has and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Simpson played nine years in Buffalo and two with the San Francisco 49ers, and it was during that decade-plus that he started pursuing other ways to become a star.
How did OJ Simpson become a film and TV star?
OJ has always been a man with some incredible charisma. His Hertz endorsement in 1975 and the iconic commercials that followed brought him to the attention of Hollywood. He had a number of cameo roles in successful films throughout the ’70s, most notably in The Klansman and the smash hit The Towering Inferno – both in 1974.
After a brief stint on Monday Night Football in the 1980s, OJ really caught fire co-starring with comedic legend Leslie Nielsen as Detective Nordberg in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Simpson would appear in all three Naked Gun film series in the role, catapulting him to national prominence on the big screen.
But that bright future was snuffed out quickly with the events of 1994 and the high-profile murder trial that followed.
How much was OJ Simpson worth at his peak?
When OJ Simpson entered the NFL in 1969, he promptly demanded the largest contract in pro football history – $650,000 for five years. Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. begrudgingly gave OJ the money and got Hall of Fame production from his star running back. OJ, meanwhile, used it to springboard into future financial success.
Between his movies, commercials, his stint as an NFL analyst and the money he made from the NFL, OJ was living the good life in the early-1990s. His 1992 monthly income was reportedly $55,000 – over $90,000 by today’s money.
He owned a beautiful California mansion, loved to entertain high-profile guests and decorated his home with memorabilia from his football and film career.
At his peak, OJ was worth upwards of $10 million – around $18 million by today’s standard.
What was the murder trial?
In 1994, OJ Simpson was arrested and charged with the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. The trial was held in Southern California, where racial tensions were incredibly high following the Rodney King case and the subsequent riots.
Thanks a legal team dubbed “The Dream Team,” consisting of super-lawyers Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz among others, Simpson was able to beat the charge thanks to a combination of misdirection, race-baiting, jury nullification, residual anger over the Rodney King trial, and – most famously – the bloody glove not fitting.
Simpson was found not guilty in a court of law. But in the court of public opinion, the evidence against him was overwhelming.
What happened after the murder trial? Why was OJ sent to jail?
OJ Simpson may have avoided a murder conviction, but his legal troubles were far from over.
When he returned home, he was largely a social outcast in the communities he had spent decades ingratiating himself in.
Ron Goldman’s family had him tried in civil court for his wrongful death and won a massive settlement for over $30 million. When the Goldmans started going after every asset of OJ’s they could, OJ cleared them out and hid them.
He also owed significant back taxes and ultimately lost his California mansion before moving to Florida – where his money would be safe from collection.
The next decade and a half would see OJ doing everything he could to stay in the public eye – for better or worse. He tried to cash in on the murders with a book, but the book and all of its royalties were taken by the Goldman family.
In the early-2000s, OJ got into trouble with the law on multiple occasions for everything from speeding to simple battery to drug possession.
But things really got bad for him in 2007, when he led a group of men into a Las Vegas hotel in an effort to “take back” some memorabilia of his. The robbery resulted in charges of criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon.
He was sentenced to 33 years in prison with possibility of parole after nine. He was paroled in 2017.
What is OJ Simpson’s net worth today?
OJ Simpson is believed to be worth about $3 million, but he doesn’t appear to have anywhere close to that much cash in the bank. According to Celebrity Net Worth, OJ collects a sizable pension from the NFL, as well as a pension of about $1,700 from the Screen Actors Guild. He is also believed to have a personal pension that he paid into over the years.
Luckily for him, pension money cannot be claimed in the judgement the Goldman family has against him.
What about OJ’s family? Does he have kids?
OJ has four living children from his two marriages.
He had three children with his first wife, Marguerite: Arnelle L. Simpson, Jason Lamar Simpson and Aaren L. Simpson. Sadly, Aaren died at the age of two.
With Nicole Brown, OJ had two children – Sydney Brooke Simpson and Justin Ryan Simpson.
None of them have sought the spotlight the way their father has though.
At 73 years of age, OJ Simpson still loves the spotlight. He’s staying out of trouble (as far as we know) and maintains a small circle of friends. He isn’t doing media appearances anymore either – though not for a lack of interest from some major outlets.
There’s not a lot of positive things to say about OJ given what we now know about him. But if nothing else, he still offers up some great meme material from time to time.