It's the most harrowing scene in the premiere episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.), holed up in the home of his friend Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) with his lawyer Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) and Shapiro's team of experts, breaks under the pressure of his imminent surrender. Kardashian finds Simpson sitting in his study. Simpson hands Kardashian his will and letters to his family and fans. Then he puts a gun to his head. American Crime Story makes the audience experience the sadness and terror of that moment through Kardashian's eyes, and that's a pretty good argument for going back to the well of the most publicly scrutinized court cases in American history for a TV series. The two men were undoubtedly close, which may make you wonder, how did Robert Kardashian and O.J. Simpson meet?
Star NFL running back Simpson and businessman Kardashian met playing a sport, though not the one you might assume. According to The Telegraph, the men first crossed paths on the tennis court over 20 years before Simpson's trial. Their friendship and later partnership quickly expanded outside of the lines. They were both drawn to the Southern California social scene and were often side by side at parties and events. The Huffington Post states that Simpson and Kardashian were together at two seminal romantic moments of each other's lives: when Kardashian met flight attendant Kris Jenner (then, Kris Houghton) and when Simpson met night club waitress Nicole Brown (later, Brown Simpson); naturally, they attended each other's weddings too. Jenner and Brown Simpson hit it off as well as the men did. Jenner recently told People that the Simpsons were "two of the best friends I ever had in my entire life. They were my family."
Between parties, dinners, and vacations, Kardashian and Simpson entered into a few business arrangements together. The LA Times reported in 1994 that those ventures included opening a pioneering frozen yogurt store through a company called Juice, Inc. after Simpson's football nickname. Concert Cinema was an enterprise intended to sell movie theaters music video clips to play before films, according to the LA Times. It wasn't successful, but it was the precursor to Movie Tunes, which Kardashian also had a piece of and whose brand name you still hear between pop tracks played at cineplexes all over the country.
In a strange and grotesque way, the "Trial Of The Century" brought two estranged friends back together. According to Los Angeles Magazine, Kris and Robert's divorce had dented their relationship and the men weren't spending as much time together as they previously had. During one of the two times they saw each other in the six months before the murders, "The two men sat on the grass and lamented their troubles with women." The magazine reports that Kardashian actually learned of Nicole's death through an acquaintance, but despite the recent cooling of their friendship, Kardashian went immediately to Simpson's side to see if he could be of any help. And that's exactly where he enters the story in The People v. O.J. Simpson, pushing through reporters and nosy neighbors to get to Simpson.
For a lot of observers, Kardashian came to represent dogged loyalty during the Simpson trial. Their meeting was casual and inauspicious, but the rest of their history was certainly not.