John Hao, one of the survivors of the Michigan State University shooting in February, watched on the sidelines as James Harden pulled off a stunning playoff performance on Sunday.
Harden scored 42 points during Game 4 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinal series pitting his Philadelphia 76ers against the Boston Celtics. The 76ers snatched the win 116–115 after Harden sank a three-pointer with 18.2 seconds left in overtime, a shot that tied the playoff series 2-2.
Wearing Harden’s No. 1 jersey, the wheelchair-bound Hao cherished the moment he shared with Philly fans as he watched the game in the Wells Fargo Center.
The 20-year-old Chinese international student and his family’s attendance at the game was the result of the 76ers guard fulfilling a promise he made three months ago to Hao that he would be invited to a game once he was cleared to leave a rehabilitation facility following the shooting at MSU that killed three students.
As fans celebrated their team’s win immediately after the game, Harden called for Hao to be brought onto the court, where Harden then signed his game-worn sneakers and gifted them to Hao.
Speaking to ESPN post-game, Harden said he dedicated the game to Hao, who helped him perform well.
“I put the work in. It’s all about being aggressive. Tonight, it was really do or die. I had a special guest in the building — Little JH. He gave me good luck, he brought me good vibes, good energy. Really, this game is for him,” he said.
Harden added that he wants to invite Hao to his “every game from here on out.”
“I don’t know what you got going or what your schedule is, but Game 6 you gotta be back here,” Harden said in a video
shared by the 76ers’ Twitter account. “Because you’re the good luck charm. For real, I just kept thinking about you.”
The NBA star shooting guard also shared the heartwarming moment on his Twitter.
Hao was one of the five students – and one of the two Chinese students – who were injured during a shooting spree at Michigan State University in East Lansing in February.
Hao was reportedly shot in the back, which severed his spinal cord that resulted in paralysis from the chest down.
After reading his story and learning that he is a fan, Harden reportedly sent a pair of game-worn sneakers to Hao. Harden also previously gave him his personal cellphone number and called him on FaceTime,
during which he offered the student words of support and encouragement and made his promise for the game invite.
“I know it’s tough right now, but you have to stay physically strong,” Harden said in the call. “You just got to think positive things and keep pushing and keep fighting. I got you.”
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