LOS ANGELES — Charles Barkley has known Ric Flair for a very long time. They may seem like unlikely friends, and the through line for their relationship may be the notorious partying days that both men have left behind them.
The two men first appeared together on television during a 1995 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, but the roots go much deeper.
It seems like pretty much every time the two are in the same place, they make sure to at least touch base. And they’ve stayed in close contact since at least the first time Barkley popped up on Nitro. And Barkley is defensive of his friend’s legacy; he once spent a few minutes on Inside the NBA teaching his fellow panelists how to properly “WOO!”
The love fest goes both ways. Flair has, on at least one occasion, praised Barkley’s skills as the hardest partier in the NBA. And while both men’s hardest partying is behind them, the friendship remains.
Barkley is such a close friend of Flair’s that during the Nature Boy’s hospitalization last year, Barkley was one of the people who made sure to stop by the hospital and check in on the two-time WWE Hall of Famer.
During All-Star Weekend, I got a chance to talk to Barkley, and the very first question I had for him was about Flair. I asked him to talk about the nature of their friendship, and that immediately brought forth a big peal of laughter from the big man. “I’ve known Flair forever, man,” he said, before hastening to bring up his fan cred. “I was a big wrestling fan going back to the ’70s and ’80s. He’s just been a great friend, and I’ve seen him in his heyday, and we’ve had a lot of fine nights together. And I went to visit him in the hospital, obviously.”