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Charles Barkley's bond with cat litter scientist warms us all

It's reminded the internet of the beauty of friendship.

Charles Barkley speaks at Lin Wang's funeral.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Charles Barkley is a towering former NBA star, and now a noted basketball analyst. Lin Wang was a cat litter chemist in Iowa. Their story together is a poignant reminder of the light that can spark when strangers become friends.

Lin Wang's daughter Shirley Wang told the tale of how her suburban dad and Barkley came to know each other. She shared it in recognition of her father's life. 

Lin Wang was born in China and moved to the US in '90s. He died from cancer in June and Barkley came to the memorial service.

During a eulogy at Wang's funeral,  Barkley recounted how the unlikely friendship was kindled. It started as a random meeting in a Sacramento hotel, followed by hours of conversation. The two got together to hang out whenever Lin Wang was in the same town as Barkley.

"He was a selfless man. He really cared about other people. And the world is going to be a little less happier because he's not here," Barkley said during his speech. 

It's impossible to absorb Shirley Wang's story or hear Barkley's eulogy without feeling your heart stirring. Some people are taking a moment away from politics and the holiday hustle to reflect on the bond between a basketball star and a scientist.

"Oh my God, this is the most beautiful story about friendship, and it made me cry this morning," tweeted broadcaster Soledad O'Brien.

Though Barkley had an intimidating reputation on the basketball court, those who know him say the friendship was totally in character. "This is really such a lovely story but the best thing about it is that it won't surprise anyone who knows Chuck," tweeted ESPN host Rachel Nichols.

Even Dictionary.com chimed in, tweeting, "Humanity. Noun. The quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence. See also: Charles Barkley and Lin Wang."

Shirley Wang created the story for NPR's Only A Game series, which you can listen to online

"The story of Barkley and my dad was written for the ear. I *truly* couldn't have imagined a better way to convey my feelings about this friendship," she tweeted

So if you need a break from the noise of the world, spend a few moments sharing in the light of a improbable relationship that actually made perfect sense.

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