It wasn’t the first time I’ve chatted with Al Horford.
I mean, technically, I did give him a stellar restaurant suggestion (which he loved by the way), when I ran into him at a crosswalk in downtown Orlando last year…but that wasn’t exactly a notable event.
Tonight was pretty fun though. We hit it off right away because we are both, of course, Florida Gators…even though I was already out of school for like 500 years by the time he was in Gainesville, working his way toward the coveted National Championship title.
Either way, he’s a good kid. While you may already know that he was chosen 3rd overall by the Hawks in the 2007 NBA draft, he also played in the NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge in 2008, and won Rookie of the Month four times during his rookie season. Horford remains a crucial link to the Hawks lineup. Oh, and he’s also a soft talker…something I told him I wouldn’t print, but of course I did anyway.
Indeed he remembered our encounter at the crosswalk in O-town…I tend to make a good first impression. Actually it was my purse made out of candy wrappers that caught his attention, not little ol’ me. “What is that thing?” he inquired.
Thanks to a mutual friend who helped set up our meeting tonight, he was nice enough to take some time to chat with me after the game.
“I thought you lived in Orlando last time I saw you…you’re like everywhere now or something?” I assured him that no, even though I dabble in travel, I am not a phantom making my way around the world. I am planted firmly in the 305 these days…forcing my way through Heat games, silently craving the luster of the Magic on the court.
After a bit of chatter over my adoration for the city of Hotlanta, the Braves, Little Five Points and Fellini’s Pizza, I inquire about his thoughts on how he sees himself as a player (on the court, not off).
With the Hawks throwing the Heat back into simmer mode tonight with a winning score of 93 to 89 in overtime, Horford remains humble. And despite an ankle sprain he obtained in the third quarter tonight, he is still pleasant. Typical of his character, he is a refreshing page in a book of overdone, overexposed, and overconfident professional athletes.
It is all-too-often suggested that he is still caught up in what seems to be the never-ending rotation between Center and PF positions. Yet he never seems to say much about it either way. He simply goes out on the court, does his job, and calls it a night. Tonight was no different. He simply complimented the work of the team and their focus on the games ahead. Day by day.
“Any good restaurants we can hit tonight?” he asks as we part ways.
Apparently one suggestion goes a long way with this guy. Too bad his game is on point, because I’m curious to see how far my suggestions on that issue would go. And I’m starting to think he has mistaken me for a restaurant reviewer, not a sports writer.
“Yeah, wait until you get home and hit Fellini’s for a pizza…and feel free to FedEx one down to me. Happy writers make for better articles.”
He smiles (adorably) and saunters away. I really hope he sends me that pizza from Fellini’s.