Horford becomes first Dominican-born player to win NBA title

NBC Sports Bay Area

After 17 long seasons, Boston Celtics veteran Al Horford is finally an NBA champion. The Celtics completed a gentleman’s sweep of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals on Monday night to earn the franchise’s NBA-best 18th title.

Not only is the occasion momentous for Horford — who entered the night with 185 playoff games without a championship, second-most in NBA history behind Karl Malone — but it’s also a huge moment for Horford’s home country of the Dominican Republic. With the 2024 title in hand, Horford became the first Dominican in league history to win a title.

Horford received a special standing ovation from the home fans at TD Garden following the Game 5 win, with the fans taking a moment to recognize the 38-year-old’s sacrifice and contributions.

“It’s been long,” Horford said with the trophy in hand of how long it’s been to get to this moment. “But I am so proud to be a part of this team, and that it happened now — Gloria a dios! (Glory to God!)”

The 17-year veteran additionally thanked his teammates and family for helping him get to this picture-perfect moment — something he couldn’t have imagined ending in a better way.

“I can’t believe it,” Horford added with a smile. “I still can’t believe it. We did it, we’re here, and I can’t believe it. This is just how I pictured it, here at the Garden, with our fans, everybody together — this is just how I saw it. Eight years ago — this is how I saw it eight years ago — [Celtics lead governor] Wyc [Grousbeck] knows about it, Wyc knows about the ring. Eight years ago!”

Referencing the first time he signed with the Celtics in 2016, Horford certainly went through a journey to get to this point. After three seasons in his first stint in Boston, Horford spent the 2019-20 season with the Philadelphia 76ers and the 2020-21 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder before returning back “home” in 2021 to finish the mission. After the 2022 Finals run that fell short to the Golden State Warriors, Horford is finally a champion.

Horford stepped up in the Finals in a massive way for the Celtics. With Kristaps Porzingis sidelined with an ankle injury, Horford returned to the starting lineup for most of the Finals, averaging 7.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.

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