The Untold Truth Of O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpson will forever be remembered as one of America's most controversial figures. The football great was living in the lap of luxury when it all came tumbling down around him because of his personal life. In 1985, he married his second wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and soon, he was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. A pattern of alleged domestic abuse emerged, with police regularly being called to the couple's home. In one particularly tragic incident in 1989, police found Nicole battered and bruised and hiding in the bushes. "He's going to kill me," she told officers, per The Los Angeles Times.

The pair divorced in 1992, but in 1994, O.J. was accused of doing just what Nicole had feared. The mom of two was stabbed to death at her Los Angeles home alongside a friend, Ron Goldman. The televised trial that followed captivated America. Indeed, over 150 million people watched the final day of the trial on live TV and were collectively shocked when O.J. Simpson was exonerated.

Despite the verdict, life would never be the same for O.J. A tumultuous few decades followed and culminated with a cancer diagnosis in February 2024. O.J. died at 76 just two months later, sparking renewed interest in his life. And yet, despite all of the headlines he made over the years, there's still plenty to uncover about him. This is the untold truth of O.J. Simpson.

Inside O.J. Simpson's difficult childhood

Orenthal James Simpson was born on July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, California. He was the third of four kids, and his unusual name was reportedly a nod to his aunt's favorite French actor. Growing up, O.J. and his siblings (a brother and two sisters) didn't have it easy. They were raised by a single mom in a housing project in Potrero Hill, which the Los Angeles Times notes used to be one of San Francisco's toughest neighborhoods.

What's more, O.J.'s mom, Eunice Simpson, was determined to keep her career to set a good example for her children. She worked long hours as an orderly and later a technician at San Francisco General Hospital and was often assigned the night shift. As one of O.J.'s childhood friends, Joe Bell told the mag, other neighborhood moms had to step up for the Simpson kids. "None of us had dads, and things weren't easy," he mused. "Neighbors looked after their neighbors' kids." The support and discipline were there — "If my mother saw O.J. doing something wrong, she'd slap him," Bell recalled — but it may not have been enough. By the time O.J. was 16, he had made a name for himself as a troublemaker and had already been suspended from school five times.

O.J. Simpson was a teenage gang leader

Despite Eunice Simpson's best efforts to keep her son out of trouble, O.J. Simpson joined his first gang at 13 and soon became the leader of his own crew, dubbed the "Persian Warriors." Every weekend, they would get into fights, but as he later told Playboy in 1976, he followed strict rules. "I only beat up dudes who deserved it," he assured.

Most of the time, though, the gang was busy robbing local businesses. They would steal from factories and warehouses in Potrero Hill, sometimes jacking soft drinks from delivery trucks. As O.J. explained in the 1991 book "60 Years of USC-UCLA Football," per the Los Angeles Times, they did it because they were bored and because they wanted to make money. One of their favorite spots to hit up was a pie factory, which they'd target almost every month. Then they'd "either sell the pies or gorge out on them," recalled O.J. "My favorite was blackberry." As for their most lucrative jobs, those involved stealing huge pieces of beef. "It was a b**** rolling those things down the hill, but there was no way one of those guys was going to chase anyone down into the projects," he quipped.

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times in 1994, O.J. admitted he had no qualms about breaking the law as a kid. "The best thing you can say about me and trouble was that I was borderline," he mused.

His future was forever changed by a baseball player

O.J. Simpson's crime streak finally caught up with him when he was 15. The "Persian Warriors" leader was sent to a Youth Guidance Center for a week, per ESPN. Then, at 16, police threw him into a juvenile hall for the weekend, per the Los Angeles Times. However, unbeknownst to him, things would soon turn around. After his release, social workers at the Booker T. Washington Center arranged for one of their famous volunteers, baseball great Willie Mays, to meet Simpson. As the story goes, rather than trying to impart any lessons to the troubled teen, Mays simply took him around for the day, running errands and stopping by his home. That's when something clicked for Simpson, as he realized he could become successful through pro sports. "A lot of people thought I was good and I realized I could be this guy," he recalled. "I don't think I got in any real trouble from that point on."

Heading back to Galileo High School, he was now focused on one goal: Getting into USC on a football scholarship. When that didn't happen, he enrolled in San Francisco City College and broke a number of city college records, catching USC's attention. Unfortunately, poor grades held him back. Again, he doubled down, upped his studies, and was finally able to transfer to USC for the spring 1967 semester.

O.J. had to overcome a life-altering illness to play football

In addition to working past his troubled youth and poor scholastic performance, O.J. Simpson had to overcome a life-altering illness to pursue his football dreams. When Simpson was just two years old, he was diagnosed with rickets, which left him with bowed legs and pigeon toes, per ESPN. As the Mayo Clinic explains, rickets are caused by an acute, prolonged vitamin D deficiency, which leads to the softening and weakening of bones in kids. Making matters worse, his mom couldn't afford the necessary braces to help Simpson's legs straighten and build back strength. Instead, she had to craft a rough DIY solution. As ESPN learned, the young Simpson was forced to wear a pair of shoes connected by an iron bar for a few hours a day until he was five.

Somehow, it worked, and he beat the odds, going on to build an incredible career in sports. After an impressive college run with USC, Simpson was recruited by the Buffalo Bills as the first pick in the 1969 NFL draft. He would go on to set multiple records, including becoming the first man to rush more than 2,000 yards in a single season in 1973. Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

He had a troubled relationship with his father

O.J. Simpson's father, Jimmy Lee Simpson, a custodian at the Federal Reserve Bank, left his family when O.J. was just four years old. After that, he rarely came back to see his children. As the football great told Parents magazine in 1977 (via Yahoo Entertainment), it essentially ruined their relationship. "I resented his absence, especially when I became a teenager and was trying to find out who I was," he admitted. "I really needed a man around then for guidance."

Their bond may have been further strained by the fact that Jimmy Lee was gay. As O.J.'s childhood friend, Joe Bell, explained in a 2016 documentary called "OJ: Made In America," that came with a lot of backlash. "Back in our day, that was the worst thing in the world that you could ever think about: an African-American man being a homosexual," Bell said, per MailOnline.

While O.J. and his dad eventually moved past the animosity, Jimmy Lee's name was noticeably absent from O.J.'s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech. Instead, he lavished plenty of praise on his mom, Eunice Simpson, gushing, per The New York Times, "You just don't know what it is to be eight years old and all your friends think you have the best mother in the neighborhood."

O.J. Simpson was an influencer before influencers

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when O.J. Simpson was one of America's most beloved celebrities. "People identify with me and I don't think I'm that offensive to anyone," he proudly told The New York Times in 1976. "People have told me I'm colorless — everyone likes me." It was that mass appeal that Simpson was able to cash in on, big time. In an era when celebrity endorsements were just starting to take off, he signed a $250,000 deal to promote General Motors cars, per Sports Illustrated. That was 1969, and by 1974, he hit the jackpot when he signed a $12.6 million deal with Hertz for a years-long print and TV advertising campaign. "They had a slogan — the Superstar in Rent‐a‐Car — and I was the current reigning superstar as far as the competition was concerned," Simpson boasted to The New York Times.

After that, the money kept flowing in, including a five‐year, $1 million contract with TreeSweet orange juice. As his business manager at the time, Marilyn O'Brien, told the outlet, he was making bank. "The majority are six‐figure involvements," she said. Yes, Simpson was an influencer before that was even a thing. What's more, he was the first African American celebrity to snag a national TV advertising campaign, per The New York Times.

O.J. Simpson and Robert Kardashian were like brothers

Long before the Kardashians found reality TV superstardom, patriarch Robert Kardashian was capturing the nation's interest as a lawyer on Simpson's legal defense team. When the former football pro was arrested on June 17, 1994, on suspicion of murdering his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, Kardashian (who was no longer actively practicing law) stepped up to help his BFF. "I know O.J. better than anyone on the legal team," he told the press at the time. "There are so many things I know about his personality."

Indeed, O.J. Simpson and Robert Kardashian shared a unique relationship that lasted decades. They first met playing tennis in 1969, per the Los Angeles Times, and became fast friends. Over the years, they would regularly play tennis and golf, go on lavish vacations together, and start joint business ventures. Simpson even lived with Kardashian at one point in the '70s. Their friendship continued as they both started families, with Simpson serving as an usher at Kardashian's wedding to Kris. And while Kardashian would eventually express doubts about Simpson's innocence, it didn't faze O.J. In a June 2019 video posted to X, formerly Twitter, he gushed, "Bob Kardashian, he was like a brother to me, he was a great guy."

Inside the Kris Jenner affair rumors

Perhaps because of how much time the Simpsons and Kardashians spent together, rumors of an affair between O.J. Simpson and Kris Jenner ran rampant for years. In fact, they continued to resurface every so often, like in 2019 when Simpson's former manager, Norman Pardo, used the "Who Killed Nicole?" documentary to allege that his client had once bragged about sleeping with Jenner. He told viewers, per Page Six, that the two got intimate in a hot tub while vacationing with their spouses and that it set the stage for their respective splits. "From what O.J. told me, everything was great up until [the] little fling that they had," Pardo claimed.

Both have repeatedly denied the alleged infidelity. Kris addressed the affair rumors in a 2019 episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," slamming, per People, "It's so tasteless and disgusting." Fighting back tears, she told viewers, "After 25 years, you'd think it just wouldn't be a thing!" As for Simpson, he used a 2019 video posted to X, formerly Twitter, to dispel the hearsay. "Never, in any way, shape, or form, have I ever had any interest in Kris, romantically or sexually, and I never got any indication that she had any interest in me," he assured. What's more, Simpson underscored the fact that Khloe Kardashian is not his child.

Despite the legal drama, he won custody of his children

Folks often forget that O.J. Simpson is a father. He first had three children — Arnelle, Jason, and Aaren Simpson — with wife Marguerite Whitley, followed by Sydney and Justin Simpson, with his second wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. The dad of five tragically lost Aaren in 1977 when she drowned in the family swimming pool at just 23 months old. Then, during his infamous 11-month murder trial, it looked like he would also lose contact with his youngest kids.

Sydney and Justin were taken in by their maternal grandparents during the course of the legal proceedings. After Simpson was exonerated, Nicole Brown Simpson's parents wanted to maintain full custody, but in 1996, a court granted that right to O.J., per CNN. The Browns were shaken by the decision, as they had argued that it was not safe to leave the kids with someone as violent as O.J. An appeals court agreed, overturned the ruling in 1998, and ordered a new custody hearing. However, in 2000, Simpson and his former in-laws agreed that the children would move with him to Florida. However, while Nicole's mother, Juditha Brown, agreed to give him physical custody of the kids, she only did so in exchange for maintaining legal guardianship. 

The time he pretended to kill an interviewer

O.J. Simpson did many disturbing things after his trial, but one of the creepiest was certainly when he pretended to stab an interviewer. It was 1998, and Simpson was back on the news, this time because it was revealed that the BBC agreed to pay him £10,000 (about $12,400) for an interview on the "Ruby Wax Meets" show. Outrage was swift as folks couldn't believe the outlet was actually giving Simpson money to promote his infamy. For their part, the BBC told Sunday Mirror (via The Free Library) that they weren't breaking any rules and shared that "[the fee] will go into the fund that is paying legal damages awarded to the Goldman family following the civil suit against O.J. Simpson." Remember: Just the year prior, in 1997, a jury found him liable in a wrongful death lawsuit brought forth by the victims' families, and they were awarded $33.5 million in damages.

The only thing more shocking than the payment was the interview itself. In a truly disturbing scene, Wax opened a hotel room door to Simpson who pretended to stab her with a banana while making screeching noises, a crude imitation of horror movie scores. "After we finished filming, O.J. said to me that he had a surprise for me — and I genuinely was surprised," Wax recalled of the incident, per MailOnlne. "I think it was his idea of a joke." She also alleged that he initially wanted to use a knife for his "joke" but couldn't find one.

O.J. Simpson and Donald Trump were once close friends

O.J. Simpson was living the high life right before his 1994 arrest, dating supermodels and partying with the rich and famous. One of the faces he regularly bumped into was Donald J. Trump. Simpson was living in New York and, as he told the "Full Send" podcast, they ran in the same circles and shared a similar taste in women. Defining their relationship, he mused, "We were very friendly acquaintances, and I gotta tell you, I liked him." Indeed, despite their relationship having many ups and downs, it seems they've always had a good rapport. As Inside Edition unearthed, they were once spotted partying together (along with a 12-year-old Ivanka Trump) in 1993. A friendship blossomed, and Simpson was even invited to Trump's second wedding with Marla Maples that year.

Just six months later, he would be arrested. After that, he and Trump had a falling out, but it seems the admiration didn't fully fade. In a lost 1995 interview with Howard Stern, published by Newsweek, Trump questioned the evidence against Simpson, arguing that blood found in his Jeep could have been faked. "50 different people could have planted it," he proclaimed. "I don't think the LAPD is that smart." Jump to 2008, and he again spoke to Stern about Simpson, this time revealing he planned to cast him on the ninth season of "Celebrity Apprentice" until NBC shut the idea down.

O.J. had two post-arrest parties

What do you do when you're freed from custody? If you're O.J. Simpson, you throw a big party. The disgraced football legend did just that in both 1995 after he was acquitted of murder, and in 2017 when he was released from prison after serving nine years for armed robbery and kidnapping.

Back in 1995, the celebration turned out to be a lavish affair hosted at his mansion in Brentwood, California. As Vanity Fair reported, mom Eunice Simpson rolled up in a Rolls-Royce and was followed by numerous limousines filled with party guests. Speaking with the outlet, Detective Paul Bishop couldn't get over the fact that West LAPD had to send officers to the scene for, as he put it, "crowd control and to protect the estate while they were preparing for a party to celebrate the deaths of two people." They looked on aghast as "forty crates of champagne were brought in," and revelers cheered and celebrated.

The law eventually caught up with Simpson in 2007 when a Nevada court sentenced him to 33 years for stealing memorabilia from two sports collectibles dealers. He claimed he was simply taking back what belonged to him. Ultimately, Simpson only served a minimum of nine years, and upon his release in 2017, he was ready to party. As his best friend, Tom Scotto, told MailOnline, he was actually planning two parties, one in Nevada and one in Florida. "It's going to be 50, 60 people," Scotto shared.