Summer 2024

Boston Celtics win 18th NBA title, 17-year vet Al Horford gets his 1st: 'Glory to God!'

Boston Celtics center Al Horford has done just about everything in his 17-year NBA career (with the Celtics from 2016-19 and 2021-present). He was the No. 3 overall draft pick. He’s made five All-Star appearances. He’s been a go-to scorer. He’s defensively shut down some of the game’s greatest scorers. Just to name a few.

Yet winning an NBA championship had eluded him — until Monday night.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

The Celtics routed the Dallas Mavericks, 106-88, to win the best-of-seven NBA Finals in five games and give Horford the championship he’d been chasing since 2007. The Celtics have now won a league-high 18 NBA titles.

“It’s been long, a lot of hard work, but I’m so proud to be part of this team and that it happened now,” Horford said when asked during the jubilant trophy ceremony about his 17-year wait for an NBA championship. “La gloria a Dios! Gloria a Dios!”

His words in Spanish translate to, “Glory to God!”

When it was Horford’s turn to take a seat in the postgame press conference, he again gave the glory to God.

“Man, I’m so grateful,” he said. “I know I’ve said it before but it’s glory to the Lord for me, for putting me in this position. It’s been a lot of years. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”

Horford, a native of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds on Monday. He hit two of his three 3-pointers and nabbed two steals, and Boston outscored Dallas by 20 when Horford was on the floor (tied for the second most on the team).

“[Horford is] my favorite teammate of all time,” Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum said on the court moments after the final buzzer sounded. “He’s the guy that paved the way for a lot of us, and it means the world to share this with him.”

This entire season was an example of the 38-year-old Horford doing whatever he can to help his team win. From the start he knew that, to extend his career as long as possible and continue to give his teams opportunities to compete for championships, he would need to adjust his role.

After being a starter for his entire NBA career, which began with the Atlanta Hawks in 2007-08, Horford knew that the 2023-24 Celtics needed him to come off the bench and provide veteran leadership. 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. In fact, he embraced it. He knew his sacrifice would set the tone for Boston’s entire season.

And when Porzingis went down on April 29 with a calf strain in the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat, Horford — who had started all but two playoff games in his career before this postseason — stepped up.

Inserted back into the starting lineup, Horford helped the Celtics close out the Heat and then dispatch the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the closeout Game 5 against the Cavs, Horford posted a stat line of 22 points (including six 3-pointers), 15 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.

Horford’s stellar play continued in the sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, where in Game 3 he poured in 23 points and a career-high seven 3-pointers.

Porzingis made his long-awaited return in Game 1 of the Finals against Dallas and played well, yet was bitten by the injury bug again near the end of Game 2. Horford was called on once more to play major minutes, and the vet delivered.

“Obviously [Horford’s] character, how he treats everybody, how everybody respects him, he always puts the team first,” Tatum said, according to The Athletic, after closing out the Cavaliers. “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, who credits Horford for mentoring him into the player he is today, 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.”

In addition to being one of the most respected players in the NBA, Horford is also one of the most outspoken followers of Christ. As he did on Monday, he often deflects praise to his Father in Heaven when interviewed after games.

Horford joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast in October 2022, revealing that he lacked a relationship with Jesus at the beginning of his career. Yet during his lengthy stay in the NBA, it has grown.

“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.”

Horford said in a 2021 interview with that, “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. 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.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Boston Celtics (@celtics)

Horford has reached the pinnacle of the sport he’s loved his whole life and played for so long, and can now add “NBA championship” to his long list of accomplishments. It’s a story he knows has been ordained perfectly by God, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Celtics’ Al Horford provides leadership as he lives by ‘faith in Jesus Christ’
Al Horford believes his ‘purpose in life is to please God’ as Celtics eye Finals
SS PODCAST: Celtics’ Al Horford on family, his journey, boldness in faith
Coach Joe Mazzulla leads Celtics back to Finals, says it’s ‘where God has us’
Jrue Holiday ‘making Christ a priority’ as he guides Celtics in NBA Finals