Al Horford waited 17 years before finally becoming a champion, sharing a long-awaited journey to the mountaintop with the Boston Celtics after Monday night’s NBA Finals Game 5 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

It took 186 career playoff appearances, which began with a first-round series loss to the 2008 champion Celtics during his rookie season with the Atlanta Hawks, but Horford hoisted a Larry O’Brien trophy. No other player in NBA history had logged more postseason games without winning a title than Horford, making the 38-year-old all more appreciative of the much-anticipated experience of being covered in confetti and champagne.

Horford feels especially appreciative, however, for the Boston faithful.

“I just wanna tell them thank you, I just wanna tell them I appreciate them,” Horford told reporters during a meet-and-greet in Boston’s Raising Canes restaurant on Boylston Street on Wednesday, per CLNS Media. “We play basketball for the Celtics, but we understand we represent much more; Boston, we represent the New England area and I’m just very proud to bring a championship to Boston. When I came here eight years ago, this was kind of what I envisioned and it’s been hard, it’s been a lot of hard work. A lot of tough losses over the years but just to get to this point, I’m very grateful.”

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When teammate and starting center Kristaps Porzingis went down, suffering a calf injury in the first round against the Miami Heat, Horford, at now 38 years of age, answered the call. He notched a 22-point, 15-rebound double-double in Game 5 of the semifinal round to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers and drained a career-high seven 3-pointers in Game 3 of the conference finals — scoring 25 points — en route to eliminating the Indiana Pacers.

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Horford averaged 9.2 points with seven rebounds and 2.1 assists, shooting 47.8% from the field and 36.8% from three, splitting the successful postseason hunt by starting and playing off the bench as the team’s sixth man.

Knowing how much it would mean to get a title added to Horford’s already-elite career resume, the team felt motivated. Horford’s reaching the tail-end of his career — currently under contract for $9.5 million next season — therefore, the race against Father Time was closing in. Yet, pushing the five-time All-Star to more considerable Hall of Fame territory was just another perk for raising Banner 18 to Horford’s Celtics teammates.

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“Knowing the type of person that Al is, knowing the leader that he is, even off the court, the father that he is, just the all-around great person and great human, I’d run through a brick wall for him,” Jrue Holiday said after Boston’s series-clinching Game 5 win. “I’m so happy that he got one.”

Horford, who skipped out on Boston’s title-winning celebration trip to Miami, is soaking in the experience of being a champion. On Friday, Horford will rejoin Celtics teammates for a duck boat parade across Boston before the team transitions into the offseason and prepares to strive for another one.

“I feel like we’re just really caught up in looking at the pictures, looking at videos, just trying to take it along with my family,” Horford added, per CLNS Media. “Just kind of sharing stories of the night and things like that. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing.”

Featured image via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images