O.J. Simpson Wasn't Himself Weeks Before Death, Friend Reveals: ‘His Physical Well-Being Was Not the Norm’ (Exclusive)

The former NFL star seemed more tired in early March when he told his friend he had cancer

<p>O.J. SImpson/X</p> O.J. Simpson in early 2024

O.J. SImpson/X

O.J. Simpson in early 2024

O.J. Simpson didn’t seem like himself the last time John McKibben saw him.

Simpson, who died on April 10 at 76, was a regular at McKibben’s restaurant, the Grape Street Cafe, Wine Bar & Cellar in Las Vegas, stopping in for his favorite cocktail at least once a week.

“He would have his ‘ritual’ Bombay gin martini,” says McKibben, owner and chef of the popular restaurant where the controversial former NFL star would come with friends or sit solo at the end of the bar chatting with staff or people who came up to him to say hello.

“He would have one or two drinks and then call it a day,” he says.

But when Simpson stopped into the eatery and bar in early March, he seemed a bit more tired than usual, says McKibben.

“He had a cane,” he says. “His physical well being was not the norm.”

That’s when Simpson told him he had cancer.

“It was the first time he ever said anything about it,” says McKibben, who had been friends with Simpson since 2017.

Simpson didn’t say what kind of cancer he had or when he was diagnosed. “He could have had it for a year,” he says. “I have no idea.”

Simpson first announced he had cancer in May 2023 and shared several health updates on social media, but kept his diagnosis private.

Related: Everything O.J. Simpson Said About Cancer Leading Up to His Death

"In recent years — really recent years — I unfortunately caught cancer, and so I had to do the whole chemo thing," Simpson said in May 2023 on social media in a four-minute clip on X (formerly Twitter.)

On Feb. 9, Simpson posted another video on X dispelling rumors he was in hospice.

Despite the grim news Simpson shared with McKibben, “he was upbeat and positive about it all.”

At the same time, he admits, “I had this feeling that this could be the last time I was going to see him.”

On April 11, Simpson’s family announced that he had died the day before, which still shocked McKibben. "I'm really sad about it," he says.

Having just been told by Simpson that he had cancer, McKibben says, “I didn’t think it would be this quick.”

McKibben said some patrons voiced their dislike for Simpson – who was famously acquitted of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman, who was returning prescription sunglasses her mother had left at the restaurant where he worked when he and Brown were killed in June 1994.

Related: Justice For Nicole Brown Simpson — Read PEOPLE's Feb. 8, 2016 Cover Story

"Some would say, 'How could you let him in this restaurant?" says McKibben.

“But 95 percent of people loved him," he added. "They would come in and say hi to him. Everyone wanted to shake his hand. He talked to everyone."

He first met Simpson when he walked into Grape St. Cafe the day he was released from prison on parole on October 1, 2017, after serving nine years in a Nevada prison after his 2008 conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping two men at gunpoint while he claimed he was trying to get his sports memorabilia back.

“I was in the back when someone came in and said O.J. Simpson came in,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I came out and shook his hand and said, ‘Hey, I’m John.’”

He didn't say much about prison except “it was great to be out,” McKibben recalls.

Over the years he and Simpson became friends, watching football, golf matches together on TV and even celebrating holidays together.

“We would go to house parties together,” he says.

McKibben also says Simpson "was close to his kids," who he has met. "He talked about them a lot."

Despite the controversy surrounding Simpson, even in death, McKibben says he will miss his friend.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.