How James Harden helps a Michigan shooting survivor heal
PHILADELPHIA – When the ’76s are the star James Harden saw the news that John Hao – a 20-year-old Michigan State student and big fan of the future Hall of Fame point guard – was paralyzed from the chest down in the tragedy Shoot On the university campus earlier this month, Harden knew he had to do something.
“There are things like that where you sit back and think about real life and bigger things than basketball,” Harden said after Philadelphia’s 110-105 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers’ first game of the All-Star break. “I heard he’s a fan of mine, so I wanted to get up there asap and just see what I can do, anything I can do.”
Harden said members of his team heard about Hao’s situation, and a few of them visited Hao at Sparrow Hospital, where he remains after the shooting. Harden sent sneakers, including a game-worn pair, which were donated to Hao’s GoFundMe and called him on FaceTime to offer him some words of encouragement.
“I love it when you smile,” Harden said on the call, video of which was aired on NBA Today Thursday. “I love it when you smile, okay? I’m with you. I know it’s tough right now, but you gotta stay physically strong, know what I’m saying? You just have to think positive things and keep fighting. I have you. I have some boys for you too. I’ve got some things coming your way, hopefully I’ll encourage you and make you smile a little. Do you understand what I mean? Let me know if you need anything else.”
GoFundMe was started by Hao’s roommate Argent Qian to help fund Hao’s medical expenses following the shooting, which the site said left Hao paralyzed after being shot in the back.
“John is a beloved member of our Spartan community, a student organization leader, and a passionate sports enthusiast,” wrote Qian, adding that Harden is Hao’s favorite player.
Three students were killed and five others – including Hao – were injured in the Feb. 13 shooting on the Michigan state campus.
“The more I can encourage and rub off that energy that I have and give him hope, I feel like I’m here for that,” Harden said. “And that’s why I have this platform. Hopefully he can recover from that sooner or later but I gave him my number so whenever he feels he needs something he can call me and I’ll check on him.”
Harden had a great game against the Grizzlies on Thursday, finishing with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists to help the 76ers come back from as many as 17 losses. He overtook the 76ers legend Allen Iverson for 31st place on the NBA’s all-time top scorers list.
When asked if he could pass Iverson after the game, Harden admitted that even the idea of making it to the NBA as a kid was nothing more than a “far-fetched dream.” Still, he said that being able to help someone in Hao’s position is something that means a lot more to him.
“It’s bigger than basketball,” Harden said. “That’s real life, you know what I mean? That’s bigger than basketball. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can make an impact on people’s lives. That’s what really matters to me . That’s what I appreciate and that’s what makes me happy, other than basketball, family and things like that. It’s a tragedy. He wasn’t expecting that. There was nothing he could control. That’s that Craziest thing about it. Anything I can do, I’ll do it.”