On February 13, a mass shooting on the campus of Michigan State University killed three people and injured five others.
One of those injured was John Hao, an 20-year-old international student from China. He was struck by a bullet in his back that severed his spinal cord, injured his lungs and left him paralyzed from the chest down. Although he survived the tragedy, his life will never be the same.
Hao also happens to be a huge fan of NBA star James Harden. When Harden got wind of that, he reached out to Hao and arranged to FaceTime him from the hospital. He made him a promise that whenever Hao had recovered enough to attend a game, he would host him in Philadelphia.
Last week, 20-year-old John Hao’s life was changed forever. He was one of the students shot at Michigan State University and was left paralyzed from the waist down. Hao is a huge fan of James Harden, and when Harden heard Hao’s story, he stepped in: pic.twitter.com/Htm2RXRdQ2
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) February 23, 2023
Now, finally, that day has arrived. When the 76ers take on the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday, Hao will be in the building to see his favorite player in action.
Who is John Hao?
Hao was born and raised in China but made the decision to attend college overseas at Michigan State. He is an avid sports fan, and he was pursuing a career in sports management before the shooting altered his life dramatically.
His roommate, another Chinese international student named Argent Qian, created a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising money for his medical treatment. As of May 5, it has raised over $420,000.
MORE: Michigan State’s Tom Izzo gives powerful speech in wake of mass shooting
When fellow Michigan State student Yousef Enayah found out Hao was a huge fan of Harden’s, he reached out to his brother, a shoe designer for Nike and Adidas who had worked with Harden in the past. He explained the situation and asked his brother if he could contact Harden’s PR team. Within minutes, the team answered back saying they would get in touch with Hao.
“My team found out about it — the people that work for me,” Harden said, per NBC Sports. “Things like that, you just sit back and think about real life and things bigger than basketball. I heard that he was a fan of mine, so I wanted to get on that ASAP and just see what I could do. So a couple of people from my team flew up there, were actually in the hospital with him, and brought him some things to kind of cheer him up, make him smile.”
Those gifts included game-worn sneakers, a donation to his GoFundMe and a promise to host him at a Sixers game as soon as he had recovered enough to attend.
“The more I can just encourage and rub off this energy that I have and give him hope, I feel like that’s what I’m here for,” Harden said. “That’s what I have this platform for. So hopefully he can recover and bounce back.”
MORE: Harden talks relationship with shooting victim: ‘Bigger than basketball’
83 days after the shooting took place, Hao will finally able to take him up on his offer. According to ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Hao has been released from the hospital and he’ll be in attendance this Sunday for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Sixers and Celtics.
Two months ago, we shared the story of John Hao — a student who was shot at MSU and became close with Sixers star James Harden. Harden promised Hao that when he was well enough, he could attend a game as his guest.
We have a wonderful update: https://t.co/SZcaJESflS pic.twitter.com/yEQbAt0jlq
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 5, 2023
“I’m fortunate just to be in a position where I can make an impact on people’s lives,” Harden said, per ESPN. “That’s what I really care about. That’s what I value, and that’s what makes me happy. … Anything I can do my part, I’m going to do it.”
Harden has averaged 21.0 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds so far in this year’s postseason. Tip-off in Game 4 will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 7. Hao will be in the building at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.