Al Horford, Boston Celtics
Al Horford is the first Dominican-born player to become an NBA champion Danielle Parhizkaran/Via Boston Globe/Globe Staff

SEATTLE - Boston is a city of champions once again after the Celtics took care of the Dallas Mavericks in five games to win their 18th NBA ring, returning the title of winningest franchise in the league back to the Northeast.

Since entering the league as a 21-year-old in 2007, the Dominican Al Horford had been trying to replicate his college success with the University of Florida, where he won back-to-back national championships with the Gators.

But the search for an NBA title took Horford a lot longer than he anticipated: 17 seasons to be exact.

On June 17, the Celtics controlled Game 5 against the Mavs to close out the series at home. The 5-time All-Star came off the court with two minutes left in the fourth quarter with TD Garden counting down the seconds to end the wait that, just like Horford, had been eluding the Celtics franchise since 2008.

It took the Dominican 17 seasons, 186 playoff games and two tries at the NBA Finals to finally win his first ring. The 186-game wait by Horford ranks second all-time among players with the most playoff games without winning a championship. Only Karl Malone (193) played more postseason games without winning it all.

The loss against the Golden State Warriors in 2022 was a learning experience for a Celtics team that went 16-3 in this year's playoffs. Before Dallas took Game 4, the Celtics were on a 10-game winning streak. No team beat them twice this postseason.

"I don't think it's sunk in yet. I'm going through the emotions right now, but I don't feel like it's over. The confetti [is falling], everything is going on, but it just hasn't hit me yet," said Horford after the game.

With an NBA ring finally in the pocket, the Dominican doesn't have much more left to prove. Selected five times to the All-Star game, earning All-NBA and All-Defensive honors and scorer of more than 14,000 career points, Horford has more than guaranteed a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Funny enough, when Horford entered the league back in 2007, he helped the Atlanta Hawks to the playoffs as a rookie. There, the Dominican had to face the Celtics in his first playoff career game. Fast forward 17 years and 186 postseason games later, it seems like it was all part of the plan.

The veteran started in 15 of the Celtics 19 games this postseason and contributed with big games such as his 22-point, 15-rebound effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.

When asked about what was going through his head as confetti was flying all over TD Garden, Horford said he still couldn't believe it. "This is how I pictured it, here at the Harden...this is how I saw it eight years ago," he said.

And after 17 years of struggles and hardships, Al Horford left the TD Garden court as the first Dominican-born player to win an NBA championship, followed closely by his kids and his family.

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