From Santo Domingo to the NBA Finals, Al Horford is at home

Boston – When Al Horford was 14, he moved from the Dominican Republic, where his mother grew up in Santo Domingo, Michigan, where his father and four half-brothers lived.

“It was just amazing,” said Anna Horford, 29, half of Al. “He helped us in our upbringing.”

He would impose on his siblings, and they would play baseball, volleyball, or basketball in the backyard. Anna recalled that Alma missed high school parties to stay with them.

When they were old enough to go to the parties themselves, he advised them, urged them to be safe, and called them if they needed to travel.

“He was always more of a father,” Anna said. “He is about six years older than the next oldest child, Horford. He was always senior and always led the way somehow. I think the same goes for Celtic.

He added: “I’m joking that he looks like the father of the Celtics team. Because he always somehow puts the guys in line, or when he speaks, they really listen and pay attention and pay him that respect. ”

Earlier this season, 36-year-old Al Horford was the only Celtics player in his 30s. Boston’s core group includes the three 20s, Jason Tatum, Jalen Brown and Marcus Smart, who had just started their NBA journey six years ago when Horford first became Celtic.

He left Boston shortly before returning this season to provide veteran leadership and stability to an otherwise young Celtics team. His presence and his game helped Boston win its 18th championship in the franchise.

“They are different, they have grown, they are much better,” Horford said of Tatum, Brown and Smart. “This is their team. It’s their time, you know? And I’m just happy to be a part of it now. ”

When Boston won the Eastern Conference Championship with a 7th game win over the Miami Heat, Horford became the first Dominican player to reach the NBA Finals. In Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia, he played in 141 playoff games without appearing in the finals – more than any other player.

The flurry of emotion he expressed when the Celtics celebrated the conference title reflected how much it meant to him. But it meant a lot to his teammates as well.

“No one deserves more than this guy on my right, here, man,” Brown said that night. “His energy, his behavior that comes in every day, is professional, takes care of his body, is a leader – I’m proud to share this moment with a veteran, a mentor, a brother, a guy like Al Horford, a man.

The Celtics made Brown in 2016, just weeks before Horford signed a four-year deal with the team. The following summer Boston chose Tatum for the 3rd time in a row. Smart was developed in 2014 for the sixth time.

Horford spent three years in Boston – with two Browns, Tatum and Smart – and the Celtics went to the conference finals twice and lost once in the conference semifinals. He turned down a contract last year in 2019 and joined the 76ers as a free agent.

In December 2020, the 76ers traded it for the Oklahoma City Thunder, which had almost no use for it. In June 2021, Boston traded with the Thunder to get it back.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Horford said. “It was time to raise them and for me as well. I take a different perspective and now I appreciate more what I have here. ”

When Brad Stevens, the Celtics basketball operations president and former head coach of the team, called Horford about the trade, Horford was in the car with his family. Everyone started screaming excitedly.

“I think he feels at home,” Anna Horford said of Boston. “This is the first place he has played, where his children were old enough to know he was in the games. Ean was the only child in Atlanta. He goes to school here, makes friends here, his other children too. It was the first place I really felt at home as a whole family. ”

The house is a particularly important concept for a transitional person like Horford.

In Santo Domingo, his mother, Arel Reynolds, was a sports journalist and sometimes led on assignments.

“I felt like I was really independent there from a very young age,” Horford said. “It was just very special, that time with my mother.”

He moved to high school in Michigan, then went to college in Florida, where he won two national championships along with two other players who had important NBA careers: Joachim Noah and Corey Brewer.

The Hawks made it to the third draft in 2007 and he made his first four out of five all-star teams while playing in Atlanta.

The seeds of his long career were sown there.

“I saw his daily habits,” said Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant coach at the Hawks before Horford played there. “Ali will be like Nolan Ryan: he will play under 45. He is very flawless in that.”

Atkinson helped Horford develop a 3-point shooting game, which also helped extend his career in the league, where he gradually eliminated big men who could not shoot.

Atkinson is now an assistant to Golden State. He spoke after Horford scored 26 points and threw six 3-pointers in Boston’s game against 1 Golden State.

What does he think about how Horford’s career went on?

“I hate it,” Atkinson said wearily. “But I’m not surprised.”

Returning to Boston, Horford sought to share with his young teammates the habits he had developed over time. They gladly accepted the advice.

“When I see them talking to Al, it almost sounds like a teacher and a student,” said Juan Morgan, a third-year forward who signed a contract with Boston before the end of the regular season. “You can see the respect factor. “When Al speaks, everyone just listens in silence, because they know it’s good for the team.”

Horford called it mutual respect.

“We try to be a good example for them,” Horford said. “I try to guide them and just help them. They know what I’m about – that I want to play right, do things right on the court. But beyond the court you also did things the right way. ”

This is the same language that Horford uses when talking about his younger siblings and ways of mentoring them.

“It’s important for me to help them in any way they can, so that they can thrive in whatever life they choose,” Horford said.

He seems to pass on this caring mentality to his son.

Eani is 7 years old friendly, with a head full of curly black hair. She loves basketball and going to the locker room with her dad’s staff. After NBA Finals 1 and 3, Al Horford shook his hand and led him to the podium to be part of a post-match interview. Ian closed his eyes to the camera after 1 game.

“She’s a big influence on her sisters,” Alma said. “My other, Alia, he is also more interested in basketball.”

Unlike her brother, Alia, 5, was not allowed to come to Game 3 because the start time, at 9 a.m. East, was too late. But he so wanted to go that while playing he painted Al, his wife Amelia Vega and Annie and left her on her father’s bed to see when she got home.

“I felt bad this morning. “I was saying, ‘You’re going to be in Game 4,'” Alma said with a laugh. “So that means my third, Ava, she’ll be in the game too. There is no way he can be left behind. ”

Horford sees a lot in his son, especially in his observation skills and competitive fire.

In Ean he also sees a child who loves big brother responsibilities, loves protecting and teaching younger siblings. This is another thing he shares with his father.

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