On Thursday, O.J. Simpson will go before the Nevada Parole Board with the hopes of being released from prison by this fall. And so, once again, the former football star and actor, acquitted of murderer in the '90s, will be watched by audiences pretty much everywhere as the hearing is aired on TV. For those who were born a bit later in '90s or simply aren't familiar with the American True Crime genre, it might not be clear why Simpson is famous — and why he is so infamous today. For the uninitiated, there are a few things you should know.
Simpson first rose to public fame in the '60s and '70s as a football player. After winning the Heisman Trophy (the top honor in college football) while playing for University of Southern California in 1968, he was the first draft pick for the Buffalo Bills — playing with the team for nine seasons (and, ultimately, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985). Following his retirement from the game in 1979, Simpson remained in the entertainment biz as an actor and sports commentator.
While football and acting (including the original Roots miniseries) might've been his initial claim to fame, Simpson is far more famous for his part in the high-profile murder trial that followed the 1994 stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.
And, from there, things shift into cultural phenomena territory. After being ordered to surrender by prosecutors, a week following the murders, Simpson and a friend took part in the now-infamous low-speed chase along California freeways in a White Ford Bronco (which, yes, was parodied in Shrek 2). The famous case that followed — recently unpacked in the Oscar-winning documentary O.J. Simpson: Made In America and dramatized in American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson — was dubbed at the time "The Trial of the Century."
Throughout the nine month trial, Simpson was repped by his so-called "dream team" of lawyers that included Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, Barry Scheck, F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Carl Douglas, Peter Neufeld, and Simpson's close family friend Robert Kardashian (yes, the patriarch of the Kardashians). And, ultimately, after much fanfare (and a famous glove that would not fit) — Simpson was acquitted.
With jurors citing "reasonable doubt," the decision was (and remains to this day) a controversial one.
However, after his acquittal, things didn't quiet down for Simpson. In 1997, Goldman's family filed a civil suit against him — and that time Simpson was found "liable" for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. From there, as the New York Times reported, Simpson was ordered to pay a total of $33.5 million to the families of the two victims. As a result of a later ruling by a Florida bankruptcy court, the rights to the controversial book Simpson wrote in 2006 about the whole saga (originally titled O.J. Simpson: If I Did It) were awarded to Goldman family (who changed the title to If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.)
Simpson's current jail sentence, however, has nothing to do with any of the aforementioned. Instead, he's serving time for an armed robbery. Arrested in September 2007 on multiple felony charges, Simpson was found guilty of breaking into a hotel room in Las Vegas to steal sports memorabilia (that Simpson alleged was stolen from his own collection.)
While his former-lawyers like his odds of being granted parole on Thursday, Simpson's status as a household name is unlikely to ever fade.