It took until Year 17 in the NBA for him to win his first championship, but Boston Celtics veteran Al Horford can finally call himself a champion. The Celtics defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals on Monday night, securing their 18th title in team history, a new NBA record. For Horford, he was finally able to get over the hump and help lead his team to a championship in his second NBA Finals appearance. At 38 years old and nearing the end of the line in his career, there have been a lot of retirement rumors centered around Horford.

However, it does not appear as if the Celtics' veteran is leaving.

Entering the offseason, Horford still has one year left on his contract, and he will make $9.5 million during the 2024-25 season. Although Horford has not said anything about his future since hoisting the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy into the air, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck made it clear on Tuesday that Boston's locker room leader isn't leaving.

“Al is coming back for next year. That's what I have been told,” Grousbeck clearly outlined during a phone appearance on The Greg Hill Show. “We've got some guys that are getting up there a little bit. Basically, we are a young team. Most of our players are 30 or younger. That is bad news for everyone else, hopefully.”

The Celtics are still a fairly young team, as their only players over the age of 30 are Horford (38) and Jrue Holiday (33). Despite their older ages, both Horford and Holiday were instrumental to the success Boston found not just in the playoffs but during the entirety of the regular season.

If Grousbeck says Horford is coming back, then Celtics fans should expect to see their veteran leader back on the court for his 18th NBA season when the team receives their championship rings in October.

Al Horford's impact on Celtics' championship run

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) celebrates after winning the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Without Al Horford, the Celtics are not the dominant team they proved to be all season. He may not possess the All-Star-like talent he once had earlier in his career with the Atlanta Hawks, but Horford is still a very impactful player due to his defensive awareness. Horford also does a lot of the little things to help the Celtics win games, which is why he is still very much one of the best glue guys in the entire league.

What makes Horford special, especially in Boston, is how he fits their style of play. Joe Mazzulla preached toughness all year, and he wanted guys next to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who were not afraid to fight for loose balls, 50-50 rebounds, and make the unselfish plays on offense.

This is exactly what Horford brings to the table.

From his three-point shooting to his passing at the top of the arc to his toughness on the interior, Horford has rapidly become the heart and soul of this Celtics organization. In the NBA Finals, the veteran big man averaged 7.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 52.0 percent from the floor and 47.1 percent from three-point range.

It seemed like every time the Celtics needed to see a jumper fall from the perimeter, Horford was the one that gave them a jolt of energy with a corner three. His natural defensive instincts also made life hard for the Mavericks' offense, as Dallas was never able to settle in the groove and get the ball moving on the interior with Horford constantly jumping around the low block.

Perhaps the greatest achievement for Horford is that he has finally ended his NBA Finals drought. In addition to being the first NBA champion who is older than his head coach since 1969, Horford also ended his dreaded playoff games without a championship streak in his 186th career postseason game. James Harden (166) now holds the longest active streak of playoff games without a title.

This championship was career-defining for Horford. He was one of the best big men in the league during the 2010s era, and now he can finally call himself a champion.

However, one championship may not be enough. Horford appears to be ready to run things back with the Celtics for at least one more year.