Q&A: Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford Discusses ‘Basketball Without Borders,’ Lamar Odom And Rapping With Ron Artest

Clocking in at 6’10″ and 250 pounds, Al Horford sizes up the competition as the center/ power forward of the Atlanta Hawks. The NBA star ran the courts last season, but with a new outlook and inspiration, the Dominican Republic native is discovering a new side to the game.

Before the two-time All-Star plays that first 48-minutes next month, Horford spent a portion of his summer overseas at a youth camp in Johannesberg, South Africa. As part of the “Basketball Without Borders” program, the FC mentored young aspiring basketball players in exchange for life-changing experiences.

Here, Horford discusses the talent he’s witnessed in Africa, his thoughts on Lamar Odom’s condition and which NBA player he would get on a rap track with. –Camille Augustin

Explain the importance of “Basketball Without Borders”?
Al Horford: “Basketball Without Borders” is very important. It’s a program that the NBA has to build the game of basketball around the world and this is my third chance that I’ve gotten to do this type of event and it’s a great event. We get some of the top players of each continent, in this case Africa, and we get them together, and we teach them about the game of basketball and try to help them.

Have you experienced any life-changing instances so far?
No question about it. This “Basketball Without Borders Africa” has been very special to me, and actually not even so much about the basketball. We just finished in an orphanage here in Johannesburg and we got to spend some time with the kids here and it put a lot of things into perspective. It makes you appreciate life a lot more just seeing how happy and excited these kids are. It makes you appreciate the simpler things in life.

Do you have one memorable moment that stands out in your mind?
The one memorable moment that I’ve experienced so far is I probably have to say we did a Special Olympics clinic. A lot of the players that are here, we all got to interact with the kids and play with them and at the beginning everyone was kind of shy, but by the end everyone was having fun and being competitive. I think that was a very special moment, probably the most memorable one.

What impact do you hope BWB will leave on the attendees?
We hope we leave just belief with these kids. In this camp we have five, six African NBA players. Five of them are current and one of them is retired, and they’re helping with the clinics here with “Basketball Without Borders” in Africa and it’s all about belief for me. That’s the one word I want these young men to take is to understand that people like them have come from here, have made it to the NBA, and have been successful. So for them to believe that it can happen to them and to work hard and they can accomplish their goals.

When traveling, what are your playlist necessities?
I have a wide variety. When I have long trips like this I like Reggae, a lot of the old school Reggae like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. I put a mix of a lot of those artists and put them together and jam out. At times I put in Meek Mill and listen to some R&B, some Merengue, Dominican music. I really listen to pretty much everything.

In a recent interview, Jay Z said Drake is the Kobe Bryant of hip hop. If you could pick any rapper to compare yourself to, who would it be and why?
I don’t want to bring out legends or anything, but I like OutKast a lot, so I would say Andre 3000, and I would just say him because sometimes I can go under the radar and I feel like at times he’s gone under the radar as an artist. He’s a great artist so that’s who I would say.

How do you feel about NBA players such as Iman Shumpert, Ron Artest, and LeBron James dipping into the rap scene?
Guys have different passions, different interests and those guys they enjoy being part of the music world and being involved in the music industry. One of my teammates, Lou Williams, he’s released a few mixtapes and he’s really involved with the hip hop community so I think it’s a great thing. I think sports and hip hop go well together, always have, and Lou is my teammate so it doesn’t get any closer than that.

Out of those NBA players mentioned, if you could pick anyone to do a collaboration with, who would it be?
I probably would say Ron Artest. I think I could definitely do a collaboration with him.

What do you think of Lamar Odom’s recent headlines?
I think a lot of the times some things can be blown out of proportion. I don’t know him at all but I know there is always speculation about people and stuff like that. If that is the case I’m sure the people that care around him will take care of him and help him.

With the NBA season approaching, what’s your outlook?
We have a fairly new team. A lot of our guys have been signed by other teams and things like that. With the guys we have now, we’re looking to really be able to click as a team, get the chemistry going, and have a good season. We feel like we have the pieces and we’re looking forward to the year to start.

Photo Credit: NBA