Horford Logs Game No. 1,000 and is Still Going Strong

BOSTON – While Jayson Tatum was celebrating his youth on Friday with his 25th birthday, teammate Al Horford was celebrating his longevity with his 1,000th career game.

In a six-point, five-rebound, three-assist, one-block effort against the Brooklyn Nets, Horford became the 145th player in league history to reach the millenary milestone, joining the top three percent of all players who have played in the NBA since 1946.

Horford is just the 12th active player (among those who are currently on an NBA team) to reach the 1,000-game mark and is one of two big men to do so along with Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan, who is currently 15 games ahead of Horford. Jordan, however, is basically out of Denver’s rotation at this point, having played in just six of his team’s last 20 games, which makes Horford the only truly active big in the 1,000-game club.

What makes Horford’s achievement so impressive is that he’s more than just active; at age 36, he is still a starter and a significant contributor on a championship-caliber team. He’s one of four Celtics that is averaging more than 30 minutes per game, and the other three – Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart – are all still in their 20s.

It’s almost unheard of for a player with so much mileage to still be logging such significant minutes, especially for a big man. His 990 starts are tied for 16th in NBA history among all players at the power forward or center position. And he’s one of just 14 big men in the 1,000-game club with a career average of at least 32 minutes per game. Nearly all players ahead of him on those lists are either in the Hall of Fame or Hall-of-Fame bound.

Horford credits his longevity to his persistent work ethic, his consistent routine, and his knowledge of how to care for his body.

Teammates, such as Tatum, admire Horford’s constant commitment so much that they strive to emulate it.

“Everybody respects Al,” Tatum said Wednesday night following Horford’s season-best 23-point effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers. “He’s been doing this the longest. He’s the ultimate team guy, does whatever it takes for us to be better as a team. He puts in the work. Al is in the gym every day, off days lifting, working on his game, working on his body, making sure he’s fresh. Guys notice that and it’s a domino effect. He brings that sense of maturity and just levelness to the team.”

Horford has also shown his teammates the importance of sacrifice and adaptation throughout a long career. One of the major reasons why he’s been able to maintain such a significant role through his mid-30s is that he’s made a committed adjustment to the modern game, transitioning from a low-post machine to one of the most lethal 3-point threats in the league.

Horford, a guy who attempted just 29 threes through his first seven professional seasons, now takes two-thirds of his shots from beyond the arc, and at elite efficiency. This season, he has shot 44.5 percent from deep on 245 attempts, which places him third in efficiency among all NBA players with at least that many attempts.

Amazingly, he’s only gotten more efficient as the season has gone on. Over his last seven games, Horford has shot a team-best 23-of-39 from deep, which included a 6-of-8 performance against Cleveland on Wednesday night.

Some players crawl into their 1,000th career game, but Horford bulldozed through the milestone and is still going strong.