Every once in a while it helps to recognize the treasure that his Al Horford. He’s so deferential and unassuming that it is easy to focus attention elsewhere but the Boston Celtics are not where they are right now without him.
Let’s start with the most important thing. Al Horford is (by every single account) a really, really great guy. People respect and admire him. Players look up to him. Coaches adore him. He’s a bright light on a hill providing guidance and comfort to those around him. That shouldn’t be taken for granted.
On the court he’s steady, reliable, and effective. On defense he’s not as spry as he once was, but he can be relied upon to always be in the right place, make good decisions, and communicate effectively. He’s one of the rare players that can be trusted to guard the MVP Joel Embiid straight up and make him really work for his points. Then he can turn around and slow down speedy perimeter players as well.
As Al has aged, he’s found a way to adapt his offensive game to the modern NBA. He came into the league he was a master at creating space in the paint and throwing his weight around. At some point he decided to expand his game to the 3 point range and yes, this is where I reference the fact that he’s become an “elite shooter.” He can still mix it up down low when necessary, but his floor stretching role is extremely valuable to the offense.
Speaking of that “elite” quote, I think that shows another side of his personality that sometimes gets overlooked. Horford is a fierce competitor. He says all the right things, shows respect to competitors, and doesn’t look to steal the limelight. But sometimes still waters run deep and you every once in a while that competitiveness peaks out. I love it when he flexes for the crowd or pumps his fists because it means that much more coming from him (he also tends to pick just the right moments to unleash that emotion).
Accolades are rightfully thrown at Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. The Celtics have many players that excel in their role on the team. I just don’t want to forget about the rock that is Al Horford. His egoless personality won’t shine too bright of a light on himself. But challenge him or doubt him and “that’s probably not good for you.”