Jon Horford couldn’t wait to hop on a plane and head east for Game 4 of the NBA Finals Friday night at TD Garden. He was so looking forward to being there as his older brother Al and the rest of the Celtics take on the mighty Warriors again and look to move one step closer to an NBA championship.
But that’s not the only reason for excitement. The flight from Michigan and the overnight stay in Boston brings Jon, or more accurately, his daily step count, some rest. As a candidate in an upcoming primary election for the Michigan House of Representatives, Jon spends hours each day walking the neighborhoods of the state’s 77th district, knocking on doors to introduce himself to potential constituents. It is time-consuming yet vitally important work, an effort that speaks to the connection Jon wants to make to his community, and the type of leadership he hopes to bring to the open Democratic seat.
“Almost 14,000 doors so far,” he says in a phone call from Lansing, where he and his wife have settled since his college playing days at Michigan and the peripatetic search for a pro basketball career that took him around the globe.
“It’s been good for us that the Finals games are later. We’re not allowed to knock on doors after 8 p.m., and we usually wrap up around 7 anyway. I don’t want to interrupt people’s dinners if I don’t have to. So I’ve been able to watch the games and now I’m going to my first one of the playoffs on Friday. That will be fun.”
From Al’s perspective, Jon deserves the break.
“It’s a lot of work and he’s found that out, I could never do anything like that,” Al said from TD Garden Thursday, following an off-day practice as he prepared for yet another night of banging bodies in the paint, fighting for loose balls on the floor, and raising his intensity enough to keep on inspiring his teammates on how to match the moment.
“But he’s very committed to it. He wants to make a difference in this world.”
With the primary set for August, there is a lot of work for Jon still to get done. Yet for the Horfords, working hard is a way of life. For the five siblings of their dad Tito (they share three mothers), family is a way of life, too. There is always time to be made for each other. So there they were in the stands Friday night, cheering as Al continues this emotional and career-satisfying journey to his first NBA Finals after 15 seasons.
“It’s an exciting time,” Jon said. “You can see him, being way more animated than he usually is. He’s usually quite reserved. It’s pretty fun and funny to see him get so worked up. Al has always been extremely driven and a passionate person. I know it’s in there. I’ve seen it before, but he doesn’t show that side that often. It’s fun for him to open up and show that side of him. He’s earned it. Talk about doing things the right way, being consistent, buying into your role, having an impact on winning for a prolonged period of time.
“Every team can benefit from having an Al on their team.”
The desire to help is the foundation of Jon’s next career goal. As Al put it, “My brother is someone that’s caring. He cares for the community. He wants to have an impact in a positive way. In my family, we’re excited to watch him as he grows in this path that he has chosen.”
It’s a path Jon pursued after being recruited expressly for this purpose. It’s the reason he considers himself more public servant than politician, an extension of the post-college career he’d already built mentoring kids in his community, working with them on life skills, entrepreneurship in building their own businesses, goal-setting, and finding fulfilling careers. Couple that with a focus on expanding mental health resources for all community members as well as investing in business opportunities for the surrounding area, and he has his platform.
Oh, and translating a life in basketball helps, too.
“The discipline you have to have, building relationships, buying into a role for the success of a team, these things all translate clearly into life and into business,” he said. “Another one of the lessons that translates really well is not necessarily getting what you want. I tell kids all the time, ‘Just because you work really hard doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you want. Even if you work harder than people around you, it doesn’t mean you’ll accomplish your goals. But there’s a strength of character gained in going through these trials and by these hardships. How are you going to react? How are you going to go forward?’
“The ability to adapt, keep an open mind, make the best of a situation, regardless of how things turn out, is the beauty in everything. Just embrace it.”
Right now, Jon is taking a moment to embrace Al’s journey, one that has reverberated everywhere as poignant and inspiring. Just recently, when one of the doors Jon knocked on didn’t quite lead to the connection with the resident he had hoped, he exchanged pleasantries and moved on. About a half-hour later, the same man drove by in his car, and called out to Jon.
“Dude, I made the connection way too late, you’re Al’s brother,” Jon recalled. “Then he went off about the game, and wanted to talk about the details. I love it.”