Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reflects on O.J. Simpson’s ‘crash and burn’ legacy after his passing

Jesse Cinquini
3 Min Read

Former Los Angeles Lakers big man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar posted some comments regarding O.J. Simpson on social media in light of the news that the former star NFL running back passed away at the age of 76 due to cancer.

“Every Black celebrity knows that, whether they like it or not, they represent the entire Black community,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar via X. “Sadly, despite admirable accomplishments as an athlete, OJ Simpson was not able to live up to that responsibility. His life is a reminder of how quickly one’s legacy can crash and burn.”

Before sparking controversy, Simpson starred with the Buffalo Bills, who drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft. He spent the first nine seasons of his NFL career with the Bills, and during that time, he led the league in total rushing yards on four occasions and rushing yards per game thrice.

Furthermore, he won the 1973 NFL AP MVP award after ranking tops in the NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards per game during the regular season.

Simpson played his final NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers back in 1979. He started just eight games for the 49ers and finished with a career-low 460 rushing yards.

Fast forward to 1995, and Simpson was put on trial for the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman, who were both stabbed to death. Controversially, he was acquitted of both murders but was later ordered to pay $33 million to Goldman’s family in a civil case.

By the time Simpson’s trial rolled around, Abdul-Jabbar was far removed from his playing days in the NBA, as his final season in the league came during the 1988-89 campaign.

Abdul-Jabbar spent the last 14 seasons of his NBA career with the iconic Lakers franchise. During that span, he won five titles playing alongside one of the best point guards in league history in Magic Johnson.

Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar helped lead the Lakers to championships in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988, which marked the most titles won by any NBA team during the decade. Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics won the second-most over that span, as they captured titles in 1981, 1984 and 1986.

Abdul-Jabbar’s statement on X (previously known as Twitter) regarding Simpson suggests that he didn’t quite hold the controversial figure in high regard.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.