True friendships transcend time, distance, and even fame.
Shirley Wang is a freelance writer who hails from a small town in Iowa. Growing up, she remembers her father Lin Wang as a typical suburban dad who “wore striped, red polo shirts tucked into khaki shorts and got really excited about two-for-one deals.” What Shirley never fully realized, though, was that her quiet father had a very famous friend — retired NBA superstar Charles Barkley.
Shirley knew that her dad had met Charles, but she never really grasped that the two were good friends with a deep, personal connection that went back several years. Lin, a scientist for a cat litter company, had met Charles when both men were in Sacramento, California, on separate business trips. Lin was an avid basketball fan, so he was delighted to make the acquaintance of a sports legend while sitting in the bar of their hotel. The two started chatting over drinks, which lead to dinner — and beyond.
“It turned into a two-hour dinner,” Charles recalled. “And then we actually went back to the bar and just sat there and talked for another couple of hours. And the rest is history.”
Charles and Lin kept in touch over text messages and visits, with Lin even visiting him on the set of “Inside the NBA.” Like any good friend, when Lin heard that Charles’s mother, Charcey Glenn had passed away, he hopped on a plane to Alabama to be there for her funeral.
“For your dad to take the time to come to the funeral meant a great deal to me,” Charles later told Shirley. “You know, it was obviously a very difficult time, 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.'”
Just one year later, Lin was diagnosed with cancerous tumors in his heart. Shirley took time off from school to care for him for two years. While Lin never missed a chance to watch Charles on TV, he insisted on keeping his friend in the dark about his cancer diagnosis because he didn’t want to burden him.
Sadly, Lin passed away in 2018, and Shirley dutifully went through his phone and texted all of his friends to let them know he’d passed. She never gave his friendship with Charles a second thought, assuming that the bond was tighter for Lin than the famous sports icon. Yet on the day of Lin’s funeral, she realized how wrong she’d been.
“The funeral was the day after the NBA Finals. My dad’s favorite team, the Golden State Warriors, had won the night before. The funeral was set near the outskirts of Iowa City in a house by the woods. I was talking to my childhood friend when she suddenly looked stunned. I turned to look behind me. And standing there — drenched in sweat from the Iowa summer, towering over everyone in the room at 6 feet, 6 inches tall — was Charles Barkley.”
The crowd went silent as this larger-than-life TV personality strode up to the podium and proceeded to eulogize his friend. After the funeral, Shirley was able to speak with Charles about the unlikely friendship between a basketball superstar and an ordinary scientist from Iowa. She wondered what these two seemingly different men could have possibly had in common, and she was blown away by his response.
“I think it was more that he was proud,” Charles said. “Because I’ve got a daughter, too. I’m just really, really proud of her, because I think she’s a good person. And your dad was so proud of you and your brother. Listen: As an adult — and you’re too young to understand this now — all you want is your kids to be happy. That’s what you work for. To give your kids everything in life.”
Lin, who started life as a Chinese immigrant and worked hard to become a success, also related to Charles because he had overcome adversity and gotten where he was in life thanks to hard work. There was a mutual respect between the two that is at the core of most deep and enduring friendships.
“It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his,” Charles told Shirley. “Just hearing about him at the funeral — what he had accomplished and what he was trying to help other people accomplish, just made me even — I wished he bragged more about himself.”
“I know how much his friendship with Charles Barkley meant to my dad. It was not just a relationship with a celebrity — it shed light on the possibilities of this world. A world where someone like him could just say something cool, something charming, and befriend someone like Charles Barkley.”
What a wonderful world it is, indeed. It’s even more wonderful when you have good friends by your side through it all.
Share this story to remind others of the importance of making and maintaining friendships with people from all walks of life and watch Charles’s beautiful eulogy for Lin below.
Share your story & inspire the world.
If you have an uplifting story we would love to hear about it! Share it with us here.