'This is special': Celtics’ Al Horford looks back on first stint with Boston, maiden NBA title after 17 seasons

Published June 18, 2024, 4:15 PMPao Ambat

Al Horford never gave up, persevered, played his role to perfection that led to his first-ever championship.

Al Horford started 15 of Boston's 19 playoff games and became a vital locker room leader for the Boston Celtics all season long.

Al Horford waited for this moment for 17 long years. 

186 playoff games later and he’s finally an NBA champion. 

"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," the 38-year-old Horford spoke in the aftermath of the Boston Celtics’ 106-88 Game 5 win that clinched the franchise’s 18th title. 


"This is an unbelievable feeling. Yeah, the confetti, everything is going on, but it just hasn't hit me yet."

Horford had nine points, nine rebounds, two assists, and two steals in Game 5. He extended his arms to the crowd in jubilation in the closing moments of the game, soaking in a moment he'll always cherish.

Once the clock hit zero and Horford was officially an NBA champ, he was joined by his father, Tito, an ex-NBA player himself.

The former Florida Gator then looked back eight years ago to his first free agency meeting with the Celtics back in 2016, recalling a meeting with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck. Both he and his agent left the meeting amazed at 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," recalled Horford.

But team manager Danny Ainge said something to Horford that he still looked back on.

"I’ll never forget what Danny Ainge told me in that meeting. He said, 'You can win championships in many places, but there's nothing like winning in Boston. Nothing like winning as a Celtic.”

He did now. In his first stint for Boston, Horford helped the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals in each of his first two seasons with the team. He then departed via free agency in 2019 to join with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, before team president Brad Stevens brought him back to Boston.

The Celtics came up short in the NBA Finals in 2022, but that made this year's title all the more special for everyone on the roster, especially Horford.

"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. I was okay if we were getting criticized and we weren't getting it done because I understood what it means playing here," said Horford.

"Finally overcoming that and winning and putting ourselves with the greats, this is special."

Horford’s teammates have nothing but praise for their veteran leader. "Nobody deserved it more than Al," said Finals MVP Jaylen Brown.

"He's been great, not just a leader on the court but off the court as well... It's been an honor to be by his side. And Al Horford is a real-life legend and hero. It's been great to be his teammate," he added.

“So underrated. 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," Derrick White spoke.

Jrue Holiday added: “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.”