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Can Al Horford And The Celtics Repeat?


Al Horford stood atop his duck boat rolling down Causeway Street in Boston surrounded by what was estimated to be over a million fans at the Celtics championship parade on Friday, June 21st.

 

On his left with both arms raised high in triumph stood his father, Tito Horford, an NBA veteran himself of three years who spent time on the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Bullets as well as playing overseas in Spain.

 

Nine-year-old Ean Horford celebrated next to his father Al as well, waving to the Boston fans and watching the green and white confetti swirl through the city. Ean had seen Al chase that elusive Larry O’Brien trophy for most of his young life and saw the joy in his father’s eyes when Horford finally lifted it above his head following the Celtics game five series-clinching win in the Finals over the Mavericks.

 

He likely could sense the relief pour out of his father when the ultimate goal of Banner 18 was finally complete, not because of a fear of failure, but simply because of how much work Horford had put in to get back to that point. The Celtics had finally gotten over the hump at long last after nearly breaking through so many times during the Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum era. Boston had reached the mountaintop and have put themselves in position to pick up where they left off next season as defending champions.




 

At 38-years old, Horford was able to remove his name from the list of players with the most NBA playoff games played without a championship. He had reached second place trailing only Karl Malone before the Celtics defeated the Mavericks. Coach Joe Mazzulla told ESPN’s Zach Lowe following the championship that the hardest part about losing to the Miami Heat in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals was that he felt he had let Horford down

 

“I felt like I had let Al down,” said Mazzulla. “I felt like I had let the team down, but I was like, damn, Al has given everything to this organization.”


“I had to literally heal myself from the fact that I felt like I had let him down, because of who he is as a person and how he carries himself, and you’re coaching a guy that you know has got a couple years left and you can’t take these situations for granted," said Mazzulla.

 

Now with the primary goal of Banner 18 in Boston taken care of, the Celtics may not be showing signs of slowing down. With contract extensions for Jayson Tatum and Derrick White likely coming this summer, Boston’s starting five is locked up for years to come. Horford confirmed he will be returning for the Celtics 2024-25 title defense, and his experience and game knowledge could be more useful than ever.

 

There hasn’t been a repeat NBA champion since 2017-18 when the Kevin Durant-Steph Curry Warriors terrorized the league. Al Horford does happen to know a thing-or-two about repeating as champs as his Florida Gators did so in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

 

Repeating is not easy, but this team has what it takes. Boston already has the shortest odds to take home the 2025 NBA title and will be the team to beat once again in the Eastern conference. Giannis and the Bucks will come back healthier, as will the Knicks. Philly is still looking to add to their roster with about $58 million in cap space this summer but as always, their chances to contend go hand in hand with the health of their MVP Joel Embiid. The Celtics are still a tier above all these teams in the East when everyone is at full strength. Add in the fact that they will be playing more freely with the monkey off their back of bringing a championship to Boston, there is no reason to think that the Celtics won’t be back on top of the East.

 

19-year-old sophomore Al Horford and the Florida Gators beat UCLA in the NCAA title game on April 3rd, 2006 to close the season on an 11-game win streak, their first of two back-to-back titles. Eighteen years later, 38-year-old Al Horford and the Celtics capture the franchise’s elusive 18th banner.

 

 “Just very overwhelming. A lot of great moments. The most special part was being able to do the parade and feel that connection with all the fans,” said Horford. “To have everybody celebrate with us together, that was the most special part.”

 

Much like Boston preached all this past season long leading up to the Finals, there is no skipping steps. As soon as that banner is raised to the rafters on opening night, the title defense begins. 82 regular season games and 16 playoff wins is what’s ahead, have to take it one game at a time. When it comes down to playoff time and each play is crucial, one thing will be for certain. Al Horford will be ready.


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