The Philadelphia 76ers are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks in part to a special guest in the stands.
James Harden, the 76ers’ star guard, dedicated his performance in Game 4 to John Hao, a Michigan State University student who was paralyzed following a shooting on campus last year. Hao was in attendance for the 76ers’ 103-96 win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday, wearing a Harden jersey and cheering him on.
“He’s my good luck charm,” Harden said after the game. “He’s been through a lot. He’s a strong kid. He’s a huge fan of mine. I just wanted to give him a show.”
Harden did just that, scoring 34 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists. He also hit a clutch three-pointer with 1:17 left in the fourth quarter to put the 76ers up by seven.
Hao and Harden met last year when Harden visited him at the hospital after hearing about his story. Hao was shot in the neck by an unknown assailant while walking to his dorm on October 12, 2022. The bullet severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
Harden said he was touched by Hao’s courage and positivity and wanted to keep in touch with him. He invited him to attend Game 4 as his guest and even gave him a pair of his signature shoes.
“I just wanted to make him happy,” Harden said. “He’s been through so much. He’s still smiling. He’s still living life. He’s an inspiration to me and to a lot of people.”
Hao said he was grateful for Harden’s gesture and friendship, and that he enjoyed watching him play live.
“It was amazing,” Hao said. “He’s my favorite player. He’s so good. He’s so humble. He’s so nice to me. He makes me feel like I’m part of his family.”
Hao said he hopes to see Harden and the 76ers win the championship this year, and that he will continue to support them from afar.
“I’m proud of him,” Hao said. “He’s doing great things on and off the court. He’s a role model for me and for everyone.”
The NBA community also praised Harden and Hao for their bond and mutual respect. Many fans and celebrities took to Twitter to express their admiration and support.
Here are some of the tweets:
@KingJames: Respect to @JHarden13 for showing love to John Hao. That’s what it’s all about. #MoreThanAGame
@Drake: Shout out to John Hao for being a warrior and an inspiration. And shout out to @JHarden13 for being a real one. #6God
@MichelleObama: What a beautiful story of friendship and resilience. John Hao, you are an example of courage and grace. And James Harden, you are an example of kindness and generosity. #BeTheChange
@StephenCurry30: Much respect to John Hao and @JHarden13 for their bond and their spirit. Praying for both of them. #DubNation
@NBA: James Harden credits John Hao, a @michiganstateu student who was paralyzed following a shooting on campus, for the 76ers’ Game 4 win.
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