Charles Barkley's 'Cat Litter Scientist' Story Unexpectedly Gets the Internet Emotional


When Charles Barkley started trending on Twitter on Saturday night, some must have assumed the NBA Hall of Famer had made another of the witty quips that helped him become so popular on TV.

But Barkley was actually trending thanks to a heartwarming story on WBUR (Boston’s NPR affiliate) from journalist Shirley Wang.

Wang wrote that her father, Lin, was a “cat litter scientist” who first met Barkley at a hotel in Sacramento. The two became close friends and stayed in touch over the years.

Lin Wang came to the funeral for Barkley’s mother in 2015. When Lin died three years later, Barkley showed up at his funeral, much to Shirley’s surprise. But he didn’t just silently pay his respects — he also gave a eulogy.

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“The one thing that people have said consistently — he was a selfless man. He really cared about other people. The world is going to be a little less happier because he’s not here,” Barkley said at the funeral.

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Barkley hadn’t met anyone else in the Wang family, but he had developed a special friendship with Lin and wanted to let the family know how much he thought of him.

“It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his,” Barkley said. “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.”

As the story made the rounds on social media, some people even admitted to getting choked up.

Through the power of social media, Shirley even came across a picture of her father and Barkley that she had never seen before.

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Shirley Wang says the friendship between her father and Barkley sheds light on the possibilities of this world where a normal person can befriend a celebrity and it seem so natural.

“I’m so glad that now I get to share my dad’s No. 1 dinner party story,” she wrote.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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