PHILADELPHIA (AP) — James Harden sank the overtime 3-pointer that propelled the 76ers to a playoff victory and immediately waved to John Hao, a paralyzed survivor of the Michigan State shooting who developed a long-distance FaceTime band with the Philadelphia Observatory.
Harden had just scored 42 points, took off his sneakers, signed and handed over to his new friend.
“He brought me good vibes, good energy,” Harden said.
Hao was all smiles as he watched from court, a necessary break from the impending rehabilitation for the international student from China who attended Game 4 as Harden’s guest.
Before the game, Harden leaned into Hao and received small pats on the back before resuming his pregame practice.
“You look good,” Harden told Hao.
20-year-old Hao and his parents were invited by Harden to attend a 76ers game as soon as he was available to travel.
Hao recently left a Chicago rehab center he had been in since a February shooting at the East Lansing campus that killed three students and injured five others.
Hao wore Harden’s No. 1 Sixers jersey and attended the game with his parents. Hao’s father also wore a Harden jersey and posed for photos as the 76ers warmed up behind him.
Learning that Hao was a fan of his after the shooting, Harden donated sneakers and money, then called the student to encourage him.
“I know things are tough right now, I just need to be mentally strong,” Harden said in a video of the conversation in February. “Just think of the positives and keep pushing. Keep fighting. I have got you.”
Harden also kept his promise that Hao would be allowed to attend a game. The family watched the game from a club box at the Wells Fargo Center.
“When I got injured, he read the news about it, he just came to give us all the support we need,” Hao told The Associated Press. “I’m so thankful for that.”
Hao said he was strong and that he was now a 76ers fan because of Harden.
“He taught me to stay strong,” Hao said.
The Michigan State shootings occurred in February during evening classes at Berkey Hall and close to the MSU Union. Students on the sprawling campus were ordered to shelter in place for four hours – “run, hide, fight” if necessary – while police hunted down 43-year-old Anthony McRae, who eventually committed suicide when he was not far from his home. house in Lansing was confronted by the police.
Hao said he doesn’t know what to expect and he still needs additional treatment. Hao said he was determined to graduate from Michigan State, though he may move back to China with his parents.
“I hope to return to my normal life and rehabilitate as soon as possible,” he said.
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