O.J. Simpson dies of cancer at age 76, family says

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O.J. Simpson, whose life as an American sports hero quickly turned when he was charged with the 1994 murder of his ex-wife and her friend, died on Wednesday at the age of 76, his family announced on social media.

“On April 10th, 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 family posted on Simpson’s X account.

Simpson’s attorney also confirmed his death Thursday to TMZ.

Simpson ultimately was acquitted of stabbing to death Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles in one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century. But his life was forever changed; he went from a sports idol to a celebrity-in-exile before being sentenced to 33 years in prison for a bungled 2007 Las Vegas hotel robbery.

On the football field, Simpson was one of the game’s all-time great running backs.

He became USC’s second Heisman Trophy winner in 1968, earning the most first-place votes (855) in the award’s history. That season, he established a then-NCAA single-season rushing record with 1,709 yards as he guided the Trojans to a Rose Bowl appearance, where they lost to top-ranked Ohio State despite Simpson’s 171 yards and 80-yard TD.

In his two seasons at USC, Simpson was twice a unanimous All-American and equaled or bettered 19 NCAA, conference and school records.

In 1969, the Buffalo Bills made Simpson the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. “Juice” went on to make five First Team All-Pro squads and six Pro Bowls. He was named MVP in 1973, when he became the first to rush for 2,000 yards in a season (doing it in 14 games) while averaging 141.3 yards per game, still an NFL record.

Simpson spent nine years with the Buffalo Bills before wrapping up his career with two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

Simpson stayed in the spotlight after retirement, working as a commentator for “Monday Night Football” and continuing his acting career, notably in “The Naked Gun” trilogy.

But, in 1994, his life changed forever.

On June 12, the bodies of Brown Simpson and Goldman were found outside her condo in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Simpson was a person of interest in the murders, but rather than turn himself in five days later, he led police on a low-speed chase throughout Los Angeles as a passenger in a white Ford Bronco driven by former NFL player Al Cowlings. An estimated television audience of 95 million watched the drama unfold, with live coverage preempting regular programming, including the NBA Finals.

The police pursuit of O.J. Simpson and the famed white Ford Bronco was shown on live TV, with NBC even interrupting its NBA Finals telecast between the Rockets and Knicks in New York to show what was happening on the opposite coast. AP Photo/Joseph Villarin

Simpson eventually surrendered to police at his Brentwood home that night.

His criminal trial began in January 1995 and was labeled “The Trial of the Century.” It featured lead prosecutor Marcia Clark against a “legal dream team” for Simpson led by Johnnie Cochran, who famously pleaded to the jury during closing arguments, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” a reference to a glove matching one found at the scene of the murders. On Oct. 3, the jury found Simpson not guilty of either murder.

Simpson’s legal woes, however, were hardly over.

In 1997, the Goldman family filed a civil lawsuit against Simpson, and the jury found him liable for $33.5 million. To help settle court costs, Simpson auctioned off his own copy of the 1968 Heisman for $230,000, plus commission.

Simpson eventually moved from his native California to Florida, and aside from several run-ins with the law, he largely stayed out of the public spotlight.

But 13 years after his double-murder trial resulted in a not-guilty verdict, Simpson went to trial again, this time in Las Vegas after he and another man, Clarence Stewart, robbed two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint after breaking into their hotel room. Simpson told police that the memorabilia had been stolen from him and he was just trying to reclaim it. But he was convicted of 12 counts of armed robbery and kidnapping and sentenced to 33 years in prison.

Subsequent attempts to appeal and request a new trial were denied. Simpson served his sentence at Lovelock (Nevada) Correctional Center. He was released on parole in October 2017, and was deemed “a completely free man” after being discharged from parole in 2021.

While on parole, in 2019, Simpson sued The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas that banned him two years earlier, alleging he had been defamed when employees said he had been drunk, disruptive and unruly. The two sides reached an out-of-court settlement for terms that were not disclosed.

Simpson remained in the Las Vegas area after his release and stayed in the public eye, even joining Twitter. But he said that 1994 night is one that neither he nor his family will ever revisit.

“We don’t need to go back and relive the worst day of our lives,” Simpson told The Associated Press in 2019. “The subject of the moment is the subject I will never revisit again. My family and I have moved on to what we call the ‘no negative zone.’ We focus on the positives.”

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