Celtics forward Al Horford remembers playing on a crumbling concrete basketball court in his hometown of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, when he was a child. The conditions were so poor, he said, many children chose not to play.
As Horford blossomed into an NBA star who is now in the second year of a four-year, $113 million deal, he was focused on helping people in his home country have some opportunities that he did not.
Horford and the Dominican bank Banco Popular began a youth basketball initiative last summer focused on growing the game there. And the first big steps were recently completed, as two outdoor basketball courts were completely reconstructed. The first is in Puerto Plata, and the other is in La Romana, the hometown of Horford’s father, Tito.
“It’s been great,” Horford said. “They were playing on these courts before, and that’s kind of when your heart goes out. Like, the rims are broken and it’s like, ‘Man the courts aren’t in good condition.’
“You want to make an impact, and even if it’s a small impact, for them, it’s a bigger deal, and it just feels good. It feels good to make a difference.”
Tito Horford, who played briefly in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks (1988-90), has already run a basketball clinic at one of the courts. And the other has evolved into a popular mixed-use space where they have held girls’ volleyball matches, zumba classes and dominoes tournaments.
Horford insisted this is just the beginning. There are plans to refurbish at least three more courts in the Dominican Republic, and he is planning on attending events there after the Celtics season ends. Horford is also helping to fund four scholarships that will allow four Dominican students to attend high school in the US.
“Al is one of those people who knows where he came from and knows the position he’s in,” said Horford’s agent, Jason Glushon. “So anything he can do small or big to help, he’s going to do.”