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Inside Charles Barkley and Lightning coach Jon Cooper's friendship

Joshua Rogers June 21, 2022
charles barkley lighning coach jon cooper frienship hockey nhl
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

After the Inside the NBA host appeared for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we take a look at Charles Barkley and Lightning coach Jon Cooper’s friendship.

Charles Barkley is one of the most beloved personalities on TV. The Inside the NBA host has wrapped up his basketball duties for the summer following the conclusion of the NBA Finals.

While Chuck often likes to vacation and go fishing in the summer, it appears he can’t get enough of sports. On Monday, Barkley was at the Stanley Cup Finals for Game 3 between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Rather surprisingly, Charles Barkley is a big hockey fan, and is great friends with Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

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Charles Barkley and Jon Cooper have been friends for years

Charles Barkley and Jon Cooper met around seven years ago when the two happened to bump into each other by chance at the Marina Del Ray Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles.

Charles was at the bar at around 1 am when Jon walked in, and the two started chatting and hit it off. It wasn’t until they said their goodbyes that Chuck realised who Cooper was.

“He was there with his dad, and we talked about hockey and basketball and everything else for three hours and he is one of the most mild-mannered guys in the world,” Barkley said (via USA Today). “At the end of the night, he hands me his card and I look at it and said, ‘Dude, you are the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning? You should have started the conversation with that.’ We’ve been friends ever since.”

“We’re like, ‘Holy cow, that’s Charles Barkley,’ and I don’t remember who spoke to him first, whether it was brother or dad, but I remember we migrated together and had a blast,” Cooper recalled. “We had so much fun, the night got away from us.”

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The basketball legend once covered Jon’s entire meal at a restaurant

The two have stayed in contact in the years since and Chuck even went into the Lightning dressing room after they won a Game 7 in 2015 at Madison Square Garden.

When the Lightning were in Chicago for Games 3 and 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, Cooper spoke to Charles about where him, his group of assistant coaches and front office staff should go in the city for dinner.

Barkley told them to go to the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, but unbeknownst to Jon the basketball legend reportedly called ahead to not only make the reservation for Cooper but also have the entire check put onto his credit card.

Last year, the pair got together for an interview to discuss their friendship:

Charles is a big hockey fan in general

Since then, Barkley has been a fan of the Lightning and actively roots for them. During the NHL playoffs, he has often asked about specific games even when filming a live NBA broadcast.

Speaking to sportsnet.ca, Barkley said: “I think the NHL playoffs are the best playoffs in the world. I have all the games on. There’s nothing more exciting than the hockey playoffs, so I’m getting pumped, man. I got about a month before everything gets started, and I can’t wait.”

Charles is also great friends with hockey GOAT Wayne Gretzky, who he convinced to join TNT.

“Charles Barkley is a good friend and he called me every single day and said, ‘This will be fun for you,’ and ultimately I decided OK this is something I gotta try and I’m really looking forward to it,” Gretzky said last year before joining the broadcast team.

Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Barkley stole the show at Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals

Barkley made an unexpected appearance during ESPN’s first intermission report of the Stanley Cup Finals. The 59-year-old revealed he managed to get tickets by calling NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and asking for tickets because he’s friends with Jon Cooper.

Charles was naturally on fine form, and even found the time to roast Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum. He compared one of Avalanche’s turnovers to how Tatum played in the NBA Finals.

“This is a regular old Jayson Tatum turnover,” Barkley said. “I’m sorry. I’m just joking… I love you, Jayson Tatum. I’m just joking!”

He also joked around with Kyle Bukauskas calling him the Canadian version of Tom Brady:

Never change, Charles.

Who do you think will win the Stanley Cup this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.