Al Horford: The pride of a community and the heart of a champion

Al Horford's championship win means so much to his community
Al Horford
Al Horford / Scott Eisen/GettyImages

The Boston Celtics wasted little time taking their NBA Championship celebration to South Beach, flying to Miami less than 24 hours after clinching their 18th Larry O'Brien Trophy in franchise history. The entire team participated in the lavish and boisterous celebration in one of the country's rowdiest cities — all except for Al Horford.

Horford didn’t make the trip to Miami with his teammates. Instead, he chose to stay in Boston, where he quietly celebrated with his family, finding joy in the simple moments at home and savoring the victory in his own, understated way.

That’s just who Al Horford is. His friendly demeanor and lovable, yet unassuming personality have long made him one of the most respected and revered players in the NBA. He’s a quiet leader — a gentle giant who has adapted his game to defy Father Time. And now, after 17 long years, he can call himself an NBA champion.

Horford is beloved in the city of Boston, a city he’s called home for close to a decade of his 38 years on this earth. That much was on full display last week when Horford teamed up with Raising Cane’s to “work a shift” and greet fans just days after hoisting his first NBA championship trophy.

Horford was greeted by a large contingent of Celtics fans, many of whom idolized the five-time NBA All-Star. Hundreds of supporters lined up outside the Raising Cane’s on Boylston Street for an opportunity to meet their beloved Celtics hero. The event didn’t kick off until 1 pm, but some fans had been waiting outside — on a Thursday in 90-degree heat — since 8 am.

No, he’s not Jayson Tatum. He’s not Jaylen Brown. But he’s Al Horford, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a player more admired and adored by any fan base in the NBA.

Al Horford is beloved by Celtics fans everywhere

Horford spoke about his love for the city of Boston and Celtics fans when asked by reporters at the event.

“I’ve been all over the country and I haven’t seen the love, the care, and the commitment of people toward not only their sports teams but their communities,” Horford said. “Boston has a really tight community. Whether I’m out putting gas in my car or out getting groceries, people always embrace me and my family. It’s everywhere in Massachusetts. The sense of community and togetherness in Boston is what’s always captivated me.”

The community Horford referred to showed up in full force that day. One fan, in particular, stood out amongst a sea of green and white.

23-year-old Samantha Robinson had been waiting in line since 8 am for an opportunity to meet her favorite NBA player. Robinson’s father, also named Al, was a huge Celtics fan. He’s the reason she became a fan, and he’s also the reason she idolizes Horford — someone who she insists bore a striking resemblance to the Celtics power forward.

Her father, nicknamed 'Big Al,' passed away in 2022, but Robinson doesn’t doubt that he’s still been able to enjoy his favorite basketball team and favorite player’s accomplishments.

“I know he’s looking down so excited about the Celtics,” Robinson said.

Robinson screamed out “We love you Al!” as the crowd piled into the building. Tears welled up in her eyes as she clutched her Celtics banner and No. 42 jersey with Horford’s name on it. She was practically hyperventilating as she finally got the opportunity to stand alongside her idol and take a photo. Waiting outside for 5+ hours in 90-degree heat probably contributed to that.

This is what Horford means to the Boston community. He’s a pro’s pro — a paragon of humility and grace both on and off the court. He represents the essence of professionalism and integrity within the world of sports. He also represents his culture.

Horford became the first Dominican-born player to win an NBA Championship when the Celtics defeated the Dallas Mavericks last week. It’s a badge of honor that he doesn’t take lightly. Horford’s father, Tito, was the first Dominican-born player to play in an NBA game, appearing in 63 total games with the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Bullets from 1988 to 1994. The younger Horford acknowledges that he's a representative for his community.

“My dad was the first Dominican player to play in the NBA,” Horford explained. “I understand that I represent more than myself and my family. There’s not only a country over there, but a community over here. The [Dominican] community is very strong in Boston and Massachusetts. I know people here are very happy. I’m happy to be able to bring them that joy.”

Horford’s historic achievement resonates deeply within the community, not only celebrating his personal success but also serving as a beacon of hope for many looking to follow in his footsteps — just as he followed in the footsteps of great Dominican athletes in Boston years ago.

“For me, the biggest thing [is inspiring younger kids],” Horford said. “I know years ago when David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Pedro Martinez were here, they inspired a bunch of us. And now, I hope that I can do the same for others.”

In Boston, Horford's Dominican heritage is celebrated with immense pride and respect. The Celtics championship parade was a vivid testament to this, with nearly as many Dominican flags waving in the air as Celtics flags, all in honor of Horford.

Boston's Dominican community embraces Horford not just as a sports hero but as a cultural ambassador who represents their shared identity and aspirations.

That will be his legacy. Sure, he’s a five-time NBA All-Star, two-time NCAA champion, NBA champion, and a possible future Hall of Famer, but that won’t be what he’s remembered for years from now.

His on-court accomplishments are impressive, but they’re not the reason fans were crying tears of happiness just to be in his presence. They’re not the reason hundreds of Dominican flags were flying in the streets of Boston last week.

Al Horford's legacy extends beyond the basketball court and into the hearts of fans worldwide, where he is revered not only for his athletic prowess but also for his character and impact. He’s a family man. He’s a role model. He’s a cultural icon.

And now, he’s an NBA champion.