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Al Horford is finally an NBA champion after 17 seasons

Celtics owner Stephen Pagliuca on historic NBA Final win for team
Celtics owner Stephen Pagliuca on historic NBA Final win for team 03:32

BOSTON -- A 17-year wait is over for Al Horford. The Celtics' big man is finally an NBA champion.

Horford struggled to put his feelings into words in the aftermath of Boston's 106-88 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, which clinched the franchise's 18th NBA title.

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

Horford checked out of Monday night's victory with just over two minutes to go to a rousing ovation from Boston fans. He extended his arms to the crowd in jubilation, 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. 

It was a special night for one of the most well-respected players in the NBA and a true leader in the Boston locker room. A starter throughout his career, Horford took a spot on the Boston bench this season after Brad Stevens acquired Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. That move gave Boston one of the deepest rosters in the league, and helped preserve both Horford and Porzingis throughout the regular season.

Horford was also ready to step up whenever Porzingis needed a night off or went down with an injury, as he did throughout the postseason. He started 15 of Boston's 19 playoff games, and capped off his postseason run with nine points, nine rebounds, and a pair of assists in Monday's clincher. 

Horford has spent six of his 17 NBA seasons with the Celtics, initially joining the team in the 2016 offseason in hopes of winning a title in Boston. On Monday night, he recalled meeting with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck during the courting process, and 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. "I 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.'"

Horford helped the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals in each of his first two seasons with the team, but then departed via free agency in 2019. He spent a season in Philadelphia (losing to the Celtics in the first round) and another in Oklahoma City before 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."

"Nobody deserves it more," Derrick White said of Horford. "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."

"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," said Jrue Holiday. "I'm so happy that he got one."

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