The quick answer is: Al Horford has played for 4 different NBA teams, which are Atlanta Hawks (2007–2016), Boston Celtics (2016–2019, 2021-now), Philadelphia 76ers (2019–2020), Oklahoma City Thunder (2020–2021).
While it used to be much more common, it’s now rare for players to stay with one team in the NBA. The league has a huge focus on free agency, especially with so many big stars ring chasing in recent years. Al Horford, while not a superstar, is one such example of that trend.
The all-star power forward has been with a few teams throughout his long and successful career. The following guide will break down each one, explain why he ended up with them, and reflect on why so many other athletes find new franchises.
A Long (and Successful) Fit
Horford, like so many great NBA players, began his career with a hot start. After winning back-to-back championships at Florida, he declared for the NBA draft where the Atlanta Hawks decided to take him third overall. He gave them everything they wanted and more.
Though a lot of draft picks don’t pan out, Horford went in the opposite direction. He thrived almost immediately, putting up a slew of rebounds, assists, and points in his first few seasons. Even after getting injured in 2011, he came back with a vengeance the next year.
Horford never wavered while in Atlanta, and quickly became a cornerstone of the franchise. The team put other solid players around him, which helped the Hawks reach new heights. The forward wasn’t a superstar like Kobe, but he was an integral piece nonetheless.
The organization hadn’t made the playoffs in the seven years before drafting him. After bringing him in, they reached the postseason in nine straight seasons. It was a great run that, while amazing for both sides, eventually came to an end.
Horford’s time in Atlanta abruptly finished in 2016. The forward became a restricted free agent that offseason and had plenty of options. While the Hawks wanted to keep him, they simply didn’t have enough money after picking up big name free agent Dwight Howard.
The franchise knew another team would likely come in and outbid them eventually. The Celtics did just that. Boston gave him a huge deal, as well as the promise of playing with a slew of extremely talented younger athletes who could help win him a ring.
Energized by the promise of a championship, Horford played better than ever. He went off in various games, and worked as a key piece of the new high powered offense. With him down low and plenty of strong shooters outside, Boston was a brand new team.
They reached the playoffs several times, including a deep run to the Eastern Conference Finals, but ultimately never got all the way. When 2019 came around, Horford had several options in free agency. He could have stayed in Boston, but eventually chose to move onto the 76ers.
There and Back Again
For most players, there’s a big dropoff towards the end of their career. They play well early, hit their peak, and then steadily fade out. They tend to bounce around the league with a few teams and then eventually retire. Horford’s path was a bit different.
Rather than slowly decline, his production never dropped off. He continued to put up big stats in Philadelphia, and is still one of the strongest cogs on a playoff/championship caliber team. Even so, he never stuck in one place for too long.
After playing only one year with the Sixers, the team traded him to the Thunder. He played well there, but Oklahoma City wasn’t trying to make a playoff push. They decided to bench him for good in March of 2021 to give their young players more experience.
Not content to sit on the bench, Horford moved teams yet again. He went back to the Celtics in a trade during the 2021 offseason. That move put him back with a quality franchise and allowed him to thrive once more.
Last season he played extremely well with the team, going with them all the way to the NBA Finals. Though Boston lost, Horford played well enough to sign a new 2-year, $20 million deal. The city is a great fit and the most likely place for him to finally get a championship.
Horford has had a great career, and only continues to thrive in his current role. While he did go the same way as many veterans, playing for one team and then moving around the league for a little while, he always played at a high level and helped his franchise in one way or another.
That gave him a great reputation. Though he’s played for four different organizations, that’s not indicative of how well he’s played. He’s always been a solid player who continues to outperform many veterans or rookies across the entire league.