Horford Believes Staying in Boston Gives Him Best Chance to Win

BOSTON – Knowing how special of a situation he’s found himself in with the Celtics, Al Horford wanted to make sure that Boston is where he’d remain for the foreseeable future.

On Thursday afternoon the 16-year veteran center secured his spot with the team beyond the 2022-23 season, signing an undisclosed contract extension.

“More than anything, you want to be in a place where you have a chance to contend, to win, and a place that’s, for me, more than basketball,” Horford said Friday morning of his decision to stay for the long haul. “In Boston, I feel a real connection here with the people and with what the Celtics are all about, and it’s something that just really excited me. The fact that I get that opportunity and [President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens] believing in me and bringing me here, it’s something that’s special, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”

Having bounced around the league a bit over the years, Horford knows how unique of an opportunity it is to play for such a talented, well-managed organization. That played a big part in his wanting to stay put rather than potentially explore more lucrative options in free agency next summer.

“I feel like we're building something really special here, and it's something that I want to be a part of and the reason kind of why I came here in the first place,” Horford said. “Everything is kind of coming together now.”

The Celtics are off to a league-best 18-4 start and Horford has played a major part in their success. Helping to fill the void of a rehabbing Rob Williams, the 36-year-old big man has put up 10.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 55.5 percent from the field and a career-high 48.8 percent from 3-point range.

Such a successful start along with last season’s Finals run solidified Horford’s desire to stick around a bit longer.

“I've always wanted to win,” said Horford, a 14-time playoff participant in 15 NBA seasons. “That's always been my number one priority, and that hasn't changed since I got into the league. That's something that you can ask any of my teammates from my rookie year in Atlanta. My goal with that team was to make the playoffs because we hadn't made the playoffs in nine years, or a long time before I got there. So my whole thing my rookie year was I don't care about Rookie of the Year, I don't care about averages or anything like that. It's always been about winning and that's what I'm about.”

Putting himself back into his shoes as a rookie in 2007-08, Horford never could’ve imagined he’d still be playing late into his 30s, let alone playing at such a high level. He’s just thankful that his body has held up for so long as a result of hard work and consistent maintenance.

“I didn't think I was gonna play this long, but as I started to go along, I felt like I was gonna have an opportunity if I took care of myself to play for a long time,” Horford said. “And not only staying healthy but always finding ways to impact winning and trying to stay relevant as best I can.”

Returning to Boston last season allowed Horford the opportunity to win at the highest level of his professional career after making his first Finals appearance last spring. He believes that was only the beginning for a Celtics team that has a realistic chance to make it back to the championship round and win it all.

“Coming back here last year, I felt the strides the group started to make and we’ve continued to make strides in the right direction,” he said. “I feel like there’s a real purpose of trying to win and the group that we have is just a really good group. So, I’m happy and we know we have a lot of work ahead, but this type of stability, it’s hard to find.”

For that reason, he was determined to get his extension out of the way as early as possible.

“My family, we’re very happy about it,” said Horford. “This is where we wanted to be. So now that we know that that’s over with, we can just focus on continuing to do the things that we’re doing here, continuing to put in the work every day, and continuing to build what we’re trying to build here.”