Getty Images

For all the rightful talk about the basketball longevity of LeBron James, there's a case to be made that no other current player has held up better than Al Horford, who is 38 years old and just played a major role in the Boston Celtics' 2024 playoff run that culminated in a gentleman's sweep of the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals. 

With the first championship of his 17-year career, Horford has avoided what some might call a dubious distinction (even though it's actually a highly impressive achievement in its own right). To date, Karl Malone remains the only player who has played the most career playoff games without winning a championship.


Karl Malone


Al Horford


John Stockton


Sam Perkins 


James Harden 


Chris Paul


Kyle Korver


George Hill


Reggie Miller


Charles Oakley


"Al Horford is a real life legend and hero. It's been great to be his teammate," Jaylen Brown told reporters after the game.

Had the Celtics become the first team in history to blow a 3-0 series lead and failed to win the 2024 title, Horford would've had to move past Malone, which would've required another playoff run, to own the dubious mark. 

But that's no longer a mark Horford needs to worry about as he became the 48th player in history to win an NCAA championship and NBA championship, and the first player since 1969 to win an NBA title with a head coach who is younger than him, and even that only happened when Bill Russell was a player-coach with the Celtics. 

Horford has been one of the league's steadiest winners over what has almost surely been a Hall-of-Fame career. He's only missed the playoffs twice in 17 seasons. If you ignore the 2013-14 playoffs, which he missed due to injury, Horford made the postseason in each of this nine years with the Hawks. Atlanta won six playoff series with Horford on board and have won just two since. 

Over two stints with the Celtics spanning six seasons, Horford has appeared in five Eastern Conference finals and two NBA Finals. The only actual team he's been on that didn't qualify for the playoffs was the 2020-21 Thunder. He has never averaged fewer than 30 minutes per game over any single playoff run. He is one of the most reliable players the game has ever seen. 

Even in the twilight of his career, Horford has remained a spectacular defender who stretches the floor as a consistent 3-point shooter. He led the 2024 playoffs with a 75% 2-point conversion rate. If there ever were a player who has paid his dues and deserves this championship, it's Horford. This is a great moment for a great player who is by all accounts an even better guy.

As for who's next? As you can see in the table above, the next active player on the list of playoff games without a title is James Harden, who would have to play in 28 more playoff games over the course of his career without securing a championship to pass Malone. 

In all actuality, that might be within range. Harden is likely going to sign another multi-year contract this summer, and 28 playoff games can add rather up quickly with a couple deep runs, which the Clippers are surely capable of making, provided he re-signs with Los Angeles and that it has a healthy postseason stretch. 

Celtics NBA Championship gear revealed

The Celtics have won their 18th NBA championship after a dominant 16-3 postseason run. Get Celtics NBA Championship hats, shirts, jerseys, and more now to celebrate their epic victory. Get gear now here.

We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.