Al Horford: NBA Champion After 17 Seasons

After 17 seasons in the NBA, Al Horford’s wait for a championship is finally over. The Celtics’ veteran big man achieved his long-sought goal when Boston clinched their 18th NBA title with a 106-88 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.

NBA Emotional Victory for Horford

Horford, at 38, struggled to put his emotions into words following the game. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I’m going through the emotions right now, but I don’t feel like it’s over,” he shared at the podium. “This is an unbelievable feeling. Yeah, the confetti, everything is going on, but it just hasn’t hit me yet.”

In the final moments of Monday night’s victory, Horford checked out with just over two minutes remaining, receiving a rousing ovation from the Boston fans. He extended his arms to the crowd, soaking in a moment he will always cherish. As the clock hit zero, signifying the Celtics’ championship win, Horford was joined on the court by his father, Tito, a former NBA player himself.

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A Leader on and off the Court

Known as one of the most respected players in the NBA, Horford is a true leader in the Boston locker room. Despite being a starter throughout his career, he accepted a bench role this season after Brad Stevens acquired Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. This move strengthened Boston’s roster depth and helped preserve Horford and Porzingis throughout the regular season.

Whenever Porzingis needed rest or dealt with injuries, Horford was ready to step up. He started 15 of Boston’s 19 playoff games, concluding his postseason with nine points, nine rebounds, and two assists in the championship-clinching game.

The Journey to a Championship

Horford has spent six of his 17 NBA seasons with the Celtics, joining the team in the 2016 offseason with the goal of winning a title in Boston. Reflecting on his initial meeting with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck during the recruitment process, Horford recalled being mesmerized by Grousbeck’s 2008 championship ring. “We just kept looking at this enormous ring in Wyc’s hand. And after the meeting, we were like, did you notice that? That’s the attention,” Horford remembered.

During the meeting, former Celtics executive Danny Ainge told Horford, “You can win championships in many places, but there’s nothing like winning in Boston. Nothing like winning as a Celtic.”

Overcoming Challenges

Horford helped the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals in his first two seasons with the team but left via free agency in 2019. He spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Oklahoma City Thunder before Brad Stevens brought him back to Boston. The Celtics fell short in the 2022 NBA Finals, making this year’s championship even more special for Horford and his teammates.

“The first thing you have to do when you come here is you have to embrace that pressure. And I was okay with being in that position,” Horford said. “I was okay if we were getting criticized and we weren’t getting it done because I understood what it means playing here. Finally overcoming that and winning and putting ourselves with the greats, this is special.”

Teammates’ Praise

Horford’s teammates were quick to celebrate his achievement. “Nobody deserves it more,” said Derrick White. “Hell of a career. So underrated career. Just does everything for us. Doesn’t ask for anything. I’m so happy for him, and I’m glad I could be a part of it. Just an amazing career, and this is just another chapter of it.”

Jrue Holiday echoed these sentiments, saying, “Knowing the type of person that Al is, knowing the leader that he is, even off the court, the father that he is, just the all-around great person and great human, I’d run through a brick wall for him. I’m so happy that he got one.”

A Legacy Cemented

Al Horford’s journey to an NBA championship is a testament to his perseverance, leadership, and unwavering dedication. As he celebrates this milestone, Horford has solidified his place in the annals of NBA history, joining the ranks of Boston Celtics legends. His story is a powerful reminder of the rewards that come with resilience and determination in the pursuit of greatness.

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