I’ve always enjoyed Al Horford’s game. I’m thrilled that the Celtics signed him to a four-year deal. Boston fans are going to love watching Horford. The team has officially landed in the top tier of the East. I wanted to learn a little more about how Al Horford came to be one of the biggest Latino basketball stars in NBA history. Al’s dad, Tito, was the first Dominican-born player in the NBA. The NCAA recruitment of Tito was a tangled concoction of NCAA lawsuits, false promises, mid-1980’s naivete, with a host of manipulations and bribes. Tito’s journey to play college basketball, and eventually make his way to the NBA was a mess.
Tito’s father (Al’s grandfather) was born in the Bahamas and then moved to a sugar mill town on the coast of the Dominican Republic, where Tito and his six siblings were born. Al’s dad was 6’10” as a 15 year-old. San Pedro do Macoris, a town of about 80,000 in the early 1980’s became known as a hub for young Dominican baseball players headed on a path to the Major Leagues. Tito realized he was too tall to become a pitcher and was introduced to basketball. Various schools, from the University of Houston, to LSU, and eventually University of Miami were involved in recruiting him.
It’s always interesting to consider the paths that take a family from Point A to Point B to Point C. The Dominican Republic brought the Red Sox franchise back from the depths in Pedro, Manny, and David Ortiz. Twenty years ago, many New Englanders didn’t know the difference between Dominicans and African-Americans. Today, the Dominican flags are everywhere. Pedro changed everything, in that respect. Pedro’s starts brought an unbelievably electric atmosphere to Fenway in 1999, as this Peter Abraham story documents.
Xander Bogaerts, a native of Aruba, and Hanley Ramirez, who is also Dominican, continue that legacy of Caribbean influence. The success of those players in Boston was not coincidental in Horford’s free-agency choice.
Welcome, Al. We can’t wait to see you in green and to create a new chapter in Celtics history.
Here’s the full story of Tito’s NCAA journey to Miami, from the Washington Post, written in 1986. (Collected in the LA Times online archive):