OJ Simpson leaves behind complicated legacy in San Francisco

Friday, April 12, 2024
ABC7 Bay Area 24/7 live stream
Stream local breaking news and original programming, live 24/7, from ABC7 Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco native O.J. Simpson has died, leaving behind a complicated history.

He became one of the most famous men in the world because of his performance on the football field, iconic endorsement deals, and appearances on TV shows and in movies.

He later became a controversial and towering figure in pop culture as he went on trial for murder. A case he would of course beat -- that divided the nation.

RELATED: OJ Simpson dies at age 76 after battle with cancer, family says

O.J. Simpson, the former football great who was accused of and ultimately acquitted of the brutal 1994 slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, has died, according to his family. He was 76.

But it all started in San Francisco, where he was a promising athlete before his star power was tarnished.

The Juice, as he was called, grew up in a Potrero Hill housing project and was often in trouble with the law.

A chance meeting with Willie Mays helped turn his life around. He played football at Galileo High School and the City College of San Francisco.

He married his high school sweetheart when he was 19 and went to USC where he was an All-American and a Heisman Trophy winner in 1968. He played NFL football for the Buffalo Bills, becoming the first rusher to ever gain 2,000 yards in a single season.

After nine years in Buffalo, he came home to play the final two years of his Hall of Fame career for the San Francisco 49ers.

"I'll never let you guys down, man I'll live up to the honor of being in this Hall and being on your team," Simpson said during his Hall of Fame speech.

With athletic ability and charisma, Simpson became a celebrity. He starred in commercials, television shows and in movies.

People magazine called him the first Black athlete to become a media superstar. All that changed in June 1994 when Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, was found brutally murdered. She'd been stabbed repeatedly and her throat slit. Her friend, Ronald Goldman, was also repeatedly stabbed to death. Simpson was the main suspect. Before his arrest, he led police on a now-infamous slow speed chase aboard a white Bronco. It was carried live for hours on T-V stations across the country. Some people, cheering him on. Millions watched his nine-month trial for murder.

Two years after his acquittal, Simpson was found liable for both deaths in a civil trial. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million in restitution to both victims' families.

He never paid a dollar. In 2007, Simpson was arrested for entering a Las Vegas hotel room to retrieve sports memorabilia he claimed had been stolen from him.

Simpson served nine years in prison. He lived his last years under two spotlights an All-American hero and an American pariah.

Throughout his life he remained a 49ers fan. Simpson's last post on X, formerly known as Twitter, before his death was a video in support of the 49ers ahead of the 2024 Super Bowl. He also said that despite dealing with some health issues, he was "just about over it."

ABC News contributed to this story.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live