Heartwarming story reveals how a chance encounter led to an unlikely friendship between NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and cat litter scientist Lin Wang

@NBAonTNT / TwitterHeartwarming story reveals how a chance encounter led to a unlikely friendship between NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and cat litter scientist Lin Wang.
  • A recent story revealed the unlikely relationship between Charles Barkley and Lin Wang.
  • Barkley and Wang met at a chance encounter at a Sacramento hotel, quickly hit it off, and became lifelong friends.
  • The story comes from the “Only a Game” podcast from NPR’s WBUR station and shows that Barkley’s bubbly affability goes far beyond what we see on camera.

Charles Barkley is known as one of the most lovably bombastic personalities in sports.

Over the weekend, a story from the “Only a Game” podcast from NPR’s WBUR station showed that Barkley’s bubbly affability goes far beyond what we see on camera.

Shirley Wang shared the story of her father, Lin Wang, who developed an unlikely friendship with Barkley after a chance encounter at a hotel bar in Sacramento. The two hit it off over a few drinks and wound up talking for hours.

“And, before we know it, we looked at each other, like, ‘Yo, man, I’m hungry. Let’s go to dinner,’ ” Barkley said. “It turned into a two-hour dinner. And then we actually went back to the bar and just sit there and talked for another couple of hours. And the rest is history.”

When Barkley’s mother passed away in 2015, Wang attended the funeral, leading to some confusion from others at the services.

“You know, it was obviously a very difficult time,” Barkley said. “And the next thing I know, he shows up. Everybody’s like, ‘Who’s the Asian dude over there?’ I just started laughing. I said, ‘That’s my boy, Lin.’ They’re, like, ‘How do you know him?’ I said, ‘It’s a long story.'”

While Barkley and Wang led radically different lives, the two found common ground in their upbringings.

“You know, he grown up in the ’70s in Alabama,” Wang said of his friend. “His father left him and his mother when he was little. He grown up with grandma and mother. And the grandma and mother cleaned up houses for somebody else to make a living. Tough life for him. But he’s well-respected professionally. And that’s his story.”

When Wang was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, he would watch Barkley on TNT as a comfort. When Barkley found out that Wang had not told him of his diagnosis, he was angry.

“I called him and got mad at him when I found out,” Barkley said. “I was, like, ‘Dude, we’re friends. You can tell me. You’re not bothering me. You know me well enough – if you were bothering me, I would tell you you were bothering me.'”

Wang died in 2018, just days before his favourite team, the Golden State Warriors, won their second consecutive NBA title. Barkley came to his funeral and spoke to honour his friend.

It’s a beautiful story that can be read in full here or listened to below.


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Over the weekend, people from across sports shared the story, adding that Barkley’s unlikely relationship was hardly a surprise.

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