Updated: Nov 28
We all have our sports heroes. Those who garner must see moments for the fans in us. They can go yard or drain a three for the win. They can knock you out with one punch or break away from a defense to seal the game. We know them. We love them. We want to be them. However, sometimes those heroes fall from grace in such a spectacular way that we have to question our fandom. What was it about them that made us cheer? What was it that drew us in and pulled us closer before the monster devoured us. Sometimes, you never know someone until it’s too late. Welcome to The Uncollectibles: OJ Simpson edition.
Orenthal James Simpson was a standout at USC which led to him being drafted first overall in the 1969 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. However, that same success did not immediately translate to the NFL. He finished fourth in voting for RoY with 697 yards and two touchdowns. That was well enough to earn him a Pro Bowl selection as well. He followed up his debut season with just 488 yards and five touchdowns in 1970, and 742 yards and five more touchdowns in 1971. Neither one of those campaigns earned him any accolades.
The Bills were a combined 8-33-1 over those three seasons. Either at or near the bottom of the league. While their team record did not improve much at all in 1972, Simpson started to shine. OJ would finish third in MVP voting that season, second in OPoY, earn his first All-Pro selection and his second trip to the Pro Bowl. In 1972, Simpson cracked the 2,000 yard mark rushing, won league MVP and OPoY, another All-Pro nod and his third Pro Bowl. This is where the legend of OJ Simpson was born in the NFL.
By the time OJ called it a career, he had rushed for 11,236 yards, which still ranks as 21st on the All-Time NFL Rushing list, 61 touchdowns, six Pro Bowls, five All-Pros, and MVP, and an induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His performances on the field were nothing short of amazing. Especially for a Bills fans base that was otherwise struggling to find reasons to cheer.
His career off the field was, in some ways, just as impressive. Appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Name of the Game, and Medical Center led to bigger opportunities in Hollywood. He was cast as Jernigan in The Towering Inferno alongside Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Faye Dunaway. He played Ladi Touray in Roots, and Nordberg in the Naked Gun Series.
Simpson was a pop culture icon, for all the right reasons. America loved him. He was OJ.
June 17th, 1994 was stacking up to be one of the best sports nights of the summer. NBA fans across the country were tuned into Game 5 of The Finals as the Knicks hosted the Rockets in what was a back-and-forth series. That was all ruined when Simpson decided to go on the craziest run since his NFL career ended. He jumped in the back of a white Ford Bronco driven by former teammate, Al Cowlings, and led the police on a two-hour, low-speed chase that spanned 60 miles across LA.
Earlier in the day Simpson was officially charged with murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman who had been stabbed to death on June 12th. Simpson, who had agreed to turn himself in, apparently had a change of heart and decided to make a quick getaway in the back of the Bronco. OJ was carrying a disguise, a large sum of cash, and his passport when he finally surrendered to authorities at his Brentwood home.
What followed was an eight-month murder trial that was nothing short of a sideshow. Simpson’s team of lawyers were every bit as good as advertised. Led by Johnnie Cochran and F.Lee Bailey, they claimed that OJ had been framed by a racist LAPD. After just three hours of deliberation, Simpson was acquitted. As he left the court house, he vowed that he would find the “real killers”.
Without question, Simpson’s most sought after card is his 1970 Topps Rookie. Of course, condition is everything here, but even raw copies can fetch $50 on the secondary market. High-grade examples demand significantly more. That should not be a surprise to anyone given his accolades and the sensationalism associated with his name.
After his rookie card there is a sharp decline in what collectors seem to tolerate from Simpson on cardboard. In fact, none of his cards even come close to what his rookie does in terms of actualized value. His certified autographs in 1991 Pro Line Portraits are possibly his second most desirable, followed by a few recent Leaf sets that included his autographs as well, because of the signatures. Of course there are plenty of cards between his rookie and current offerings that can be had for reasonable prices.
Outside of his cards, there are many other options as well. Tickets, balls, helmets, and yes, even artwork, that can be had for those who care to collect The Juice. However, for my money, none of that comes close to the June 27th cover of Sports Illustrated cover that reads “The Charge: Murder”. There are not any examples of this for sale on the secondary market, however, there is a photo of the cover, signed by OJ, with an asking price of $5,300.
Despite his acquittal, Simpson was very clearly guilty, at least in the eye of the public. While he did walk for the murders, a Civil Court found him guilty and was ordered to pay $33.5M to the families of Nicole and Ron. In 2007, Simpson faced charges of robbery, kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon for a botched robbery attempt in Las Vegas, which ultimately did end him in prison. He served 10 years of a 15 year sentence and was released on parole in 2017. Since then he has popped in out of the public view and is currently living in a private community in Vegas. He’s pretty active on “X” and is still looking for the “Real Killers”.
Is OJ Simpson uncollectible? Let me know in the comments.