Before he was Prisoner No. 0264892, O.J. Simpson was a star. In ESPN’s five-part 30 for 30 documentary about “The Juice,” the story takes a look at where he grew up and went to school, and tells how his experience as a college kid at the University of Southern California shaped him as a person. It explores race, sports, fame, and violence like no other O.J. documentary has.
With Part 1 in the books, The Urban Daily takes a look at five of the most shocking reveals.
How Much Of A Star He Was Before And After The NFL
Much of what people know about O.J. nowadays are his legal troubles, which have plagued him over the past 20 years. But what made the original murder case so titillating was how big of a football star O.J. was. Before his name was synonymous with the glove not fitting, O.J. was one of the most dynamic runners the NFL had ever seen. Simply reliving the old rivalry between his alma mater USC and the University of California, Los Angeles, in a game where O.J.’s 64-yard run, is a big part of sports history. After his football career, he became a Hollywood star. A spokesperson for Hertz rental cars, he also starred in films including blockbuster Airplane and the space thriller Capricorn One, where O.J. played an astronaut. After his appearance in Roots, his celebrity grew even bigger.
O.J. Didn’t Want To Get Political
In the 60s, amid the turbulence of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, as well as the war in Vietnam, athletes started speaking out about a lot more than sports—including Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. When some Black sports stars proposed a boycott of the 1968 Olympics, Simpson had this to say to the press: “I’m not too well enlightened on the situation. I don’t know exactly what they’re trying to do.” When he was asked why he wouldn’t take a stand with other Black athletes, he said, “I’m not Black. I’m O.J.”
O.J. Was Always A Slick Talker
The Juice definitely knew how to talk himself out of a situation. The first part of the miniseries delved deeper into Simpson’s past and showcased how he grew up in the projects in San Francisco in a single-parent household. Old footage shows him reminiscing about begging for tickets outside of a baseball stadium and fake crying just to get a ticket and sell it minutes later. Joe Bell, a childhood friend, tells a story of a group of friends getting in trouble and their football coach bringing them to the principal’s office for playing dice in the bathroom. O.J. lied and said he was just helping the coach escort the kids to the office and had done nothing wrong. Another slick talking O.J. story reveals how he stole (and later married) his teammate Al Cowlings’ girlfriend, Marguerite Whitley, and somehow came out unscathed.
His NFL Career Was Almost A Bust
The O.J. that NFL fans grew to love in the mid and late ’70s wasn’t always good. When he was first drafted in 1969 by Buffalo Bills’ head coach John Rauch, he was misused and his inability to be the star of the team only made his performance worse. O.J. began to come into his own as head coach Lou Saban took over. He even went on to lead the league in rushing yards in 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976. He was infatuated with breaking Jim Brown’s single-season rushing record of 1,863 which had stood for 10 years. O.J. shattered the record with 2,000 yards in a snowy game against the New York Jets. Other running backs would go on to beat that record in the modern-day schedule of a 16-game season. But O.J. did it in 14 games.
His Father Was Gay
Finding out that O.J.’s father, Jimmy Lee, was gay may have been the biggest surprise in the first episode of the series. One of his childhood friends, Joe Bell, describes the time he and O.J. had gone to his father’s house and saw Jimmy Lee and another man in bathrobes. He would later come out as gay and died of AIDS complications in 1986.