Horford spends time teaching basketball to youth abroad

Hawks center Al Horford is living proof of the NBA’s global impact on the game of basketball.

Dominican-born and the son of former NBA player Tito Horford, he grew up admiring the game from afar.

That’s why Horford said was so eager to be a part of the Basketball Without Borders Americas program that wrapped up Sunday night in Mexico City. It was his chance to give back to children who are growing up the same way.

A joint venture by the NBA and the international basketball federation FIBA, the developmental program uses the sport to create positive social change in education, health and awareness around the globe.

“I always wanted to be able to help out, anything I could do with the NBA, as far as helping to spread the word internationally,” Horford said. “The game has truly gone global. And it’s important to go out and spend time with kids and make a difference. When they asked me if I was interested, I was in right away.

“It’s even better for me this year, with this camp being in Latin America, because I’m able to relate and talk to kids here and really do some positive things for the NBA and basketball in general.”

Yet for all the children that stood in awe of Horford and fellow NBA stars Eduardo Najera, Samuel Dalembert and Willie Green last week, Horford is the one who left the experience most stunned at what he’d seen.

“There are 25 million people living in and around Mexico City,” Horford said from Mexico before returning home. “When you come down here on the plane and see all the people, it doesn’t seem real. Not even New York takes your breath away like this place does.

“I’d been to [Cancun] before but never to this part of Mexico. And I can’t lie, the people were really excited about us being here.”

Horford said he had no idea the interest in basketball and the NBA was so great in Mexico. Like most nations in the central and southern parts of the hemisphere, soccer is king.

“Basketball is really growing here,” he said. “There are just so many kids. There’s a lot of talent down here. Some will have a chance to play pro ball. Maybe not in the league, but somewhere.”