40 Nights of Hate: Learning to Respect Al Horford’s Game

(Editor’s Note: Today’s article continues our 2017 NBA Playoffs basketball coverage called 40 Nights of Hate, as the next two months of our lives will be devoted to the greatest postseason basketball tournament known to mankind. Some of our arguments will be rational, many others will be irrational. To hate is to love, as the basketball gods toy with our lives like James Harden does oafish 7-footers on switched pick-and-rolls. Enjoy our 40 Nights of Hate coverage, or despise it. Either is acceptable.)

On April 2, 2007, the Florida Gators defeated my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, and from there I began hating Al Horford. After he shimmied his way past my Buckeyes en route to a second NCAA championship, I made it a point to have a fake beef with Horford.

Although I couldn’t stand his style of play, in the back of my mind I knew he was supremely talented. As time evolved, the disgust for Horford’s game still resonates, but the respect has increased immensely—especially during this year’s playoffs.

It’s easy to point to Isaiah Thomas’ dominant play in wake of his sister’s tragic passing as the reason for Boston’s resurgence. While that is the case, the Celtics wouldn’t be riding a six-game winning streak without the player that I love to hate, but learned to respect—Al Horford.

Over the six-game stretch, Horford averaged 17 points, 6.5 dimes and 9 rebounds. In addition to that, he’s playing the role of the de facto point forward, allowing Thomas to focus on scoring. Horford’s passing skills give the Celtics another playmaker that can ease the load off Thomas and backup point guard Terry Rozier. Surprisingly, he’s thrived in the role as he has flirted with getting triple-doubles in the two opening rounds of the playoffs.

After facing criticism in wake of his $114 million max contract, Horford is proving that he is worth every penny. Even though he’s been the engine behind Boston’s success, I still can’t stand to watch him play. His robotic-like approach to the game and his swagger-less mantra bothers the hell out of me.

That doesn’t negate that Horford is a jack-of-all-trades. He can shoot, defend, rebound, pass and he has a great basketball IQ. There isn’t anything he can’t do on the court and he does it with little to no flair. There aren’t many big men in the NBA that can fill up the stat sheet quite like Horford. Oh, and if you want to bet against him, you can find the latest NBA betting odds at Skybook.

As the playoffs progress we will continue to see that he has become one of the best all-around big men in the NBA today. As was previously stated, a decade ago, I began to hate Horford. Ten years later, I’ve learned to put some respect on his game, and oddly enough, I hate that I feel this way.

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