It seems like there’s a different heartwarming story that goes viral on social media every day, with everybody saying that this new heartwarming story is the only one that matters and that all others are garbage, but social media actually got it right this time with a tearjerker called “My Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley,” a story from NPR’s Only A Game sports show that started to pick up a lot of viral heat this morning. As indicated by the title, the piece is about the father of contributor Shirley Wang and his unexpected friendship with basketball legend Charles Barkley, and—at the risk of allowing our cold and cynical hearts to actually feel something again for the first time in years—it’s legitimately touching. For real, don’t read what we have to say about it, just go read it yourself.
As Wang explains it, her father, Lin Wang, met Barkley at a hotel years ago when they were both alone at the bar, and they just struck up a conversation about their lives. Wang was a “cat litter scientist” from Iowa and Barkley is a famous basketball star/very good sketch comedy show host, so it would be easy to assume that they wouldn’t have anything in common, but they both immediately bonded while at the bar and decided to go out for what ended up being a two-hour dinner. They then went back to the bar and talked even more, with Barkley giving Wang his phone number and telling him to call if he ever happened to be in Atlanta, New York, or Phoenix. The two also had what Wang’s daughter considered a “pretty one-sided” texting relationship, with her father telling Barkley happy birthday or complimenting him on his Capital One commercials.
Lin Wang went to Charles Barkley’s mother’s funeral in 2015, looking clearly out of place among Barkley’s other friends, and he even went out to dinner with Barkley’s family afterward. In 2016, Wang was diagnosed with cancer but never told Barkley, with Barkley saying that he “got mad” when he found out that his friend hadn’t told him. “I was like, ‘dude, we’re friends. You can tell me. You’re not bothering me.’” Wang died earlier this summer and Barkley attended his funeral, later telling Shirley Wang that he was impressed with everything her father—who moved to Iowa from China in the ‘90s—had accomplished. “I wished he bragged more about himself,” Barkley noted.