Relive June 17, 1994, when OJ Simpson's car chase interrupted the NBA Finals during an already wild sports day.

OJ Simpson, a Pro Football Hall of Famer turned controversial American figure, died Tuesday at the age of 76 following a battle with cancer.

Simpson was a household name in America well before the 1990s, and it all started when he won the Heisman Trophy in 1968.

He went on to have one of the most memorable careers in the NFL, becoming the first player to rush for 2,000 yards in 1973 (this was over a 14-game season, and his 143.1 rushing yards per game that year remains an NFL record), and then I went to Canton in 1985.

But less than a decade later, Simpson was the subject of what would be called the trial of the century. He was on trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Both men were killed on June 12, 1994, but five days later, one of the strangest events in American history would occur.


June 17, 1994

OJ Simpson car chase interrupted the 1994 NBA Finals (Getty Images)

June 17, 1994 marked the day Simpson was in the back of the infamous white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings, in a low-speed chase with authorities that was viewed by nearly 100 million people .

But it wasn't the only major sporting event held that day.

It was a Friday – it was also the weekend of the US Open. Arnold Palmer, 64, playing in the tournament for the first time in 11 years, stood outside watching the cutting line at Oakmont Country Club in western Pennsylvania. All signs pointed to this being his final round at the US Open, which turned out to be the case: He received a rousing ovation as he walked to the 18th green.

During this round, however, a big celebration took place in Manhattan, as the New York Rangers celebrated their first Stanley Cup victory since 1940 with their parade through the Canyon of Heroes. Madison Square Garden was the perfect venue, as later that evening the New York Knicks would host the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It was also the opening of the 1994 World Cup in Chicago.

The Rangers' parade and Palmer's round were over before the chase began. The Knicks-Rockets game had also started, as it wasn't until around 6:45 p.m. PT that the Bronco was spotted (the game had started about 40 minutes earlier). In fact, Robert Kardashian read what was believed to be Simpson's suicide note less than an hour before the report.

A Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson (hidden in the back seat) is allegedly driven by Simpson's former teammate Al Cowlings.

A Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson (hidden in the back seat) was allegedly driven by Simpson's former teammate Al Cowlings, pursued by dozens of police cars during an hour-long chase on area highways from Los Angeles on June 17, 1994. (Sam Mircovitch/Reuters)


The Bronco chase came after Simpson failed to surrender to police as planned, causing havoc and leading Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti to officially deem Simpson a “fugitive from justice.” But once the cameras found “The Juice,” it took over the basketball game.

The series was tied 2-2, but with 6:39 left in the first half, NBC moved from the finale to the chase. For the remainder of the night, both events would be broadcast simultaneously, with the match broadcast in a small box in the corner. To this day, some Knicks and Rockets fans still wonder what they missed when NBC pulled out of the game.

Simpson, who was to be charged with the murders, had a gun to his head throughout the car ride, with police pleading with him not to harm himself and to throw the gun out of the car. The 405 was filled with cars stopped for miles just to catch a glimpse of Simpson, who eventually made it to his home.

Motorists stop and salute as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco driven by Al Cowlings, carrying fugitive murder suspect OJ Simpson.

Motorists stop and salute as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco driven by Al Cowlings, carrying fugitive murder suspect OJ Simpson, during a 90-minute slow-speed car chase June 17, 1994 on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles, California. Simpson's friend Cowlings eventually drove Simpson home, with Simpson hiding under the rear passenger seat, to Brentwood where he went after a confrontation with police. (Jean-Marc Giboux/Liaison)


At almost the same time, the Knicks were winning the game, 91-84, but delighted Knicks fans had to squint at the television to see the team's biggest victory since 1973.

The Rockets, however, won the next two home games to win the title, and Ernie Els won the US Open that Sunday.

June 17, 1994 was just the beginning of what is arguably the largest trial ever. Simpson was ultimately found not guilty of the murders, but was later found financially responsible in civil court.

OJ Simpson wearing the blood-stained gloves found by Los Angeles police

OJ Simpson wearing the blood-stained gloves found by Los Angeles police and entered into evidence at Simpson's murder trial on June 15, 1995. (STR New/Reuters)


The events of the day are presented in an ESPN “30 for 30,” simply titled “June 17, 1994,” a documentary film that features no narration or interviews – just clips of the day's events. Just saying… imagine social media existed.

As director Brett Morgen said, “Almost every emotion in sports happened that day,” and that couldn't be more true.

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