Celtics’ Al Horford reacts to making first NBA Finals after snapping record streak: ‘It’s just special’

It took him 15 seasons and 141 playoff games, but Boston Celtics big man Al Horford is finally headed to the NBA Finals. The 141 playoff games Horford has played in is the most ever for a player before their first Finals berth, but that streak is now over. 

Perhaps that long wait is why Horford was so emotional following Boston’s 100-96 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Take a look:

The moment had to be especially sweet for Horford, 35, after the way his career has played out. Just a year ago there were questions about his future in the league after a miserable one-season stint with the Philadelphia 76ers and a forgettable campaign with the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder that saw him play just 28 games for the franchise. Now, he’s back in a city and on a team where he’s embraced, and clearly comfortable on the court. 

“I’ve been a part of a lot of great teams, a lot of great teammates, and I’m so proud of this group,” Horford said after Game 7. “For me, it’s just special to be with them and be able to help them and be a part of this. I’m really grateful to be in this position.”  

In addition to breaking the streak for most postseason games played without a Finals appearance, Horford also made additional league history by becoming the first player to represent the Dominican Republic in the Finals. 

“We’re here in Miami really close to [Dominican Republic],” Horford said of the accomplishment. “I know my family’s happy. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s watching. The country was watching, I know everybody was there. They were sending me pictures. They were ready for this. We’re enjoying this one.”  

Given all that he has meant to the Celtics on both ends of the floor — and the locker room — since his return, it’s no surprise that Horford’s teammates are exceedingly happy for him. “When he came back, it gave us a sense of security,” Boston guard Marcus Smart said of Horford. “He’s selfless. Al couldn’t care less about the numbers. He cares about the wins and his team.”

“Nobody deserves it more than this guy on my right,” forward Jaylen Brown added of Horford. “His energy, his demeanor. Coming in every day, being a professional, taking care of his body, being a leader. I’m proud to be able to share this moment with a veteran, a mentor, a brother, a guy like Al Horford, man. He’s been great all season, really my whole career. So, I’m happy to be able to share this moment with somebody like him.” 

When it comes to the ultimate goal of winning a title, the job isn’t done for the Celtics, as they still have four more wins to go against the Golden State Warriors. But, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the smaller victories in life and career, and after waiting for a decade and a half, Horford should certainly feel good about finally getting an opportunity to showcase his skills on the NBA’s biggest stage. 

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