When Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden learned that one of his biggest fans was left paralyzed in a mass shooting at Michigan State earlier this month, he quickly stepped in.
John Hao, who was among those injured in the shooting at Michigan State, is still recovering in a hospital and was left paralyzed from the waist down. Harden sent the 20-year-old student several pairs of shoes, including a game-worn pair, and FaceTimed Hao with the goal to “brighten John’s day, even if it was just for one minute.”
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
“Everything will work itself out, be strong,” Harden told Hao. “You’re alright. You’ll be alright. I promise you are … I love when you’re smiling, alright? I’m with you. I know it’s tough right now, but you have to stay physically strong, you know what I mean? You gotta just think positive things and keep pushing and keep fighting.”
A single shooter allegedly opened fire at two locations on Michigan State’s campus earlier this month, killing three students and wounding five others, including Hao. The suspected shooter then died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound later that night. The mass shooting marked the 67th in the United States this year and prompted the university to shut down for several days.
Longtime Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo addressed a crowd at a candlelight vigil days later. Izzo, who is in his 28th year with the program, had a daughter graduate from the university. His son, Steven, is a walk-on on the basketball team and was on campus the night of the shooting.
"Steven was at one of the buildings two nights ago about 10 minutes after things happened," Izzo said. "So sometimes we don't understand because we haven't been through it. That little moment brought me a little closer to understanding … Our hearts are heavy. Our loss has been great. Our lives have been permanently changed. With a shared commitment to help each other and a promise to remember those we have lost, we will find joy again."
Izzo, like plenty of others in the sports world in recent years, pleaded for gun reform at the vigil.
"I think everybody spoke that something has to be done in our society," Izzo said. "Gun violence is insane right now. We all have a platform. Some are small, some are high. But we all have a platform. I hope each and every one of you use your platform to help others so other families don’t have to go through what these families are going through right now."
While Hao was left paralyzed and has a long road to recovery ahead of him, Harden’s gesture was a welcome one in what has otherwise been a horrific time for him and his family.