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

BOSTON – When Al Horford was 14, he moved to the Dominican Republic, where his mother grew up in Santo Domingo, Michigan, where his father and four siblings lived.

“It was so awesome,” said Anna Horford, 29-year-old Al’s half-sister. “It helped us grow.”

He cared for his siblings and played baseball, volleyball, or basketball in the yard. Anna remembered Al skipping high school parties to be with them.

When they were old enough to go to parties, he would advise them to be safe and call if they needed a walk.

“She’s always taken on more of a father role,” Anna said. “He’s about six years older than the next oldest child in Horford. He’s always been older, and he’s always walked the path somehow. I think the same goes for Celtic. ‘

He added: “I’m just kidding, he’s like the father of the Celtics team.

Earlier this season, Al Horford, 36, was the only 30-year-old Celtic player. There are three 20-year-olds on the Boston core team, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, who were just starting out in the NBA when they became Horford Celtic six years ago.

He left Boston shortly before returning this season, and has given veteran leadership and stability to the young Celtics team. His presence and his game gave Boston a boost for the 18th franchise championship.

“They’re different, they’ve grown, they’re much better,” Horford said of Tatum, Brown and Smart. “This is their kind of team. This is their time, do you know? And I’m glad to be a part of it now. ‘

When Boston won the Eastern Conference Championship by winning the 7th game over the Miami Heat, Horford became the first Dominican player to reach the NBA Finals. In the Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia mandates, he played in 141 playoffs without making a final appearance, more than any other player.

As Celtics held the title of the conference, the show of emotion reflected what it meant to him. But it also meant a lot to his teammates.

“No one is worth more than this guy on my right, right here, man,” Brown said that night. “His energy, his demeanor, his daily routine, his professionalism, his body care, his leadership, I am proud to be able to share this moment with a veteran, a tutor, a brother, a guy. Al Horford, man.

Celtics picked up Brown in 2016, just weeks before Horford signed a four-year deal with the team. The following summer, Boston’s Tatum No. 3 in general. Smart was ranked sixth overall in 2014.

Horford spent three years with Boston – two with Brown, Tatum and Smart – and the Celtics went to the conference finals twice and lost once in the conference finals. He left the final year of his contract in 2019 and joined the 76ers as a free agent.

In December 2020, the 76ers traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, which he barely used. In June 2021, Boston negotiated with the Thunder to return.

“I think it all happens for a reason,” Horford said. “This was the time to grow them and me to grow them too. I take a different point of view and now I appreciate even more what I have here. ”

Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations and the team’s former head coach, called Horford when he called to report the trade when Horford was in a car with his family. They all started screaming with excitement.

“I think he feels right at home with her,” Anna Horford said of Boston. “It simply came to our notice then. Ean was just a child in Atlanta. She goes to school here, makes friends here, and her other children. This was the first place I felt at home with the whole family. ”

Home concept is especially important for someone as transient as Horford.

In Santo Domingo, his mother, Arelis Reynoso, was a sports journalist and occasionally took him on a commission.

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

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

Hawks finished third in 2007, making the first four of his five All-Star teams while playing in Atlanta.

The seeds of his long career were planted there.

“I saw his daily habits,” said Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant coach with the Hawks while Horford played there. “Al Nolan will be like Ryan. He’ll play until he’s 45. He’s perfect.”

Atkinson helped Horford develop a 3-point shooting game, which helped him extend his career in a league that is gradually eliminating big men who can’t shoot.

Atkinson is now a Golden State assistant. Horford scored 26 points and made six three-pointers and the next day in Boston, he won the 1st game in Boston against Golden State.

What do you think of Horford’s career?

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

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

“When I see him talking to Al, he’s almost like a teacher and a student,” said Juwan Morgan, the third-year striker he signed with Boston before the end of the regular season. “You just see the respect factor. When he speaks, everyone is silent, listening, because they know it’s for the good of the group. “

Horford called it mutual respect.

“Trying to be a good example for them,” Horford said. “I try to lead and help them. They know what I’m doing: I want to play the right way, I want to do the right thing on the court. But even on the court, things are going well. ”

It’s the same language that Horford uses when he talks about little siblings and the ways in which he has been their guardian.

“For me, it’s important to help them in any way they can to move forward with everything they choose in life,” Horford said.

He seems to be transmitting this caring mentality to his son.

Ean is a 7-year-old gregarious child with curly black hair. She loves basketball and walking around the locker room with her father’s co-workers. After games 1 and 3 of the NBA Finals, Al Horford took him by the hand and took him to the podium to be part of the post-match conversation. Ean nodded to the camera after Game 1.

“She has a big impact on her sisters,” Ale said. “My second, Alia, is now also interested in basketball.”

Unlike her brother, 5-year-old Alia, she was not allowed to come to Game 3 because the start time, 21:00 East, was too late. But he wanted so much to go, Al, he drew a picture of his wife Amelia Vega and Ean in the game and left it on his father’s bed so he could see it when he got home.

“I felt bad this morning. I said, ‘You’ll be in the fourth game,’ “Ale said with a laugh.” That means my third, Ava, will be in the game too.

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

In Ean, she also sees a child who loves being responsible for being a big brother, who loves to protect and teach her little siblings. That’s another thing he shares with his father.

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