Summer 2024

Celtics center Al Horford provides veteran leadership as he lives by 'faith in Jesus Christ'

With Boston’s five-game series victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers, five out of center Al Horford’s six seasons with the Celtics (2016-19; 2021-present) have seen them reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Yet despite all those trips, only once has the team advanced to the NBA Finals (2021-22), when Boston lost to Golden State.

Horford and his teammates are hoping this year is different.

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The 37-year-old Horford, a native of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, will turn 38 on June 3 and knows his opportunities to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as an NBA champion are limited. As such, the five-time All-Star has adjusted his game to fit the 2023-24 Celtics to a tee.

After being a starter for his entire NBA career, which began with the Atlanta Hawks in 2007-08, Horford has transitioned into a role off the bench this season. The Celtics added fellow center Kristaps Porzingis via a trade last offseason, which resulted in Horford averaging the fewest points (8.6) and minutes (26.8) of his career in the regular season.

Horford didn’t complain, however, and when Porzingis went down on April 29 with a calf strain in the first round against the Miami Heat, Horford stepped up. Inserted back into the starting lineup, Horford helped the Celtics close out the Heat on May 1 and then dispatch the Cavaliers. In the closeout Game 5, Horford posted a stat line of 22 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, and tied his career high with six made 3-pointers. Boston won by 15.

Porzingis will miss the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, but is expected to return for Game 3. So Horford, who had started all but two playoff games in his career before this postseason, will remain in the starting lineup until then.

“Tonight you saw [Horford’s] gift,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said after Game 5, according to The Athletic. “His gift is just passion, inspiration, toughness, and competitive nature.”

Celtics star Jayson Tatum added, “His performance, his energy, his leadership tonight was crucial. … Obviously his character, how he treats everybody, how everybody respects him. He always puts the team first. He’s always been like that, and he just kind of sets the tone. As somebody that’s at this stage of his career and his age doing all these things, there’s really no excuse for the rest of us.”

Tatum continued later: “Al’s like a brother to me, someone I love dearly. I give Al a lot of credit for how he’s transitioned and adapted his game to stay playing a major role and having a huge impact. And I’ve watched how professional he is, how he carries himself, how he takes care of his body.”

Horford, however, sought to deflect the praise from himself following the game.

“First of all for me, I have to give the glory to the Lord,” he said in his postgame press conference. “Tonight was a special night for our group.”

Horford has boldly spoken about his faith before, including joining the Sports Spectrum Podcast in October 2022. He says that he lacked a relationship with Jesus at the beginning of his career, but it has grown in the years since.

“This is what I live by,” he said on the podcast, “my faith, my faith in Jesus Christ. What He’s done in my life is what I live for. … God has spoken to my heart, and great things have come out of that.”

He continued later, saying, “I had to speak about my faith. I had to speak about all the wonders that God has done in my life and how much He has changed me. Because He has.”

“My whole purpose in life is to please God, to ensure I’m doing His will and that I’m living my life in that example,” Horford said in a 2021 interview with “Based on that, that’s how I go about my life and then the rest of everything will fall in place — whether it’s me being a basketball player, being the best father, the best husband and just trying to help anybody I can along the way.”

Horford seeks to be thankful for everything he has in life.

“[Christ is] my Savior, but also, He’s given me so much,” Horford said on the podcast. “In every phase of my life, I see God’s hand. … Every day when I pray, I’m always giving thanks and giving Him the glory for so many things.”

Horford wants to win an NBA title as much as anyone — it’s one of the few things that’s alluded him in his 17-year NBA career — but he is at peace, knowing Christ has already won the greatest victory of all on his behalf, the victory over sin and death on the cross.

Game 1 between Horford’s Celtics and the Pacers is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in Boston.

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

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