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Harden Honors MSU Shooting Survivor After Hitting Game-Winning Three-Pointer

James Harden and John Hao
Matt Slocum/AP

James Harden just had one of the biggest nights in his career, but he made the night an even bigger one for John Hao, a paralyzed Michigan State shooting survivor.

After hitting the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime that tied the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics, Harden took off his sneakers, signed them and gave them to his new “sixth man of the year,” that was sitting courtside.

Harden had fulfilled a promise he had made to his new friend a few months back in February when they first met over FaceTime.

Good News Always Follows

On Feb. 13, 2023 a gunman, senselessly took the life of three MSU students and injured five others during evening classes.

The shooting occurred at the MSU union and at Berkey Hall. Students and instructors across campus were forced to take shelter and hide inside classrooms for over four hours. Students and staff were also ordered to “run, hide, fight” if needed.

Unfortunately, Hao was one of the critically injured on that February evening. He was rushed to the local Sparrow Hospital until he was transferred to a Chicago Rehabilitation Facility.

Yousef Enayah, an MSU student focused on sports journalism, had heard what happened to Hao through a friend they shared in one of Enayah’s sports journalism classes.

Enayah’s brother works with Harden’s management team, and after hearing the tragic news, he took a shot at reaching out.

“So my brother happens to work with his (Hao) favorite player, so I thought I’d take a shot in the dark to see if he could relay the message.” A day and a half later, Enayah received this photo.

James Harden’s manager Troy Payne and team visiting John Hao at the hospital.
James Harden’s manager Troy Payne and team visiting John Hao at the hospital. Gifting him sneakers and other gear.

Harden and his team immediately reached out and sent all kinds of sneakers and money. Harden even called on FaceTime to offer some encouragement to Hao.

In a video of their FaceTime call, Harden can be heard saying, “I know it’s tough right now, just gotta be mentally strong.” He also added, “Just think about the positive things and keep pushing. Keep fighting. I got you.”

This was also when Harden promised to have Hao be his personal guest during one of the 76ers games.

Hao, who had only been recently discharged, could be seen courtside with his parents as he and his father both wore James Harden, No. 1 jerseys. With his parents, Hao took pictures with Harden before and after the game.

Hao had already been a Harden fan, but now his entire family is. Hao is even a 76ers fan as a team now.

“He taught me to keep strong,” Hao said.

Run it Back?

After the game, a video posted by the 76ers showed Harden and Hao postgame. The two were conversing about Hao potentially coming back for Game 6, the Sixers next home game.

Whether Hao will be attending has not been confirmed, but the entire world hopes to see him again on the sideline soon.

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