Have you ever seen or heard a 7-foot-1, 270-pound man beg? Stand near Tito Horford the next time he picks up the telephone to call the Hawks' front office.

"I've been begging [general manager] Rick Sund and the Hawks for the last three years - please get a center so my son can pay his normal position," the elder Horford said Tuesday from his home in the Dominican Republic. "He can't push guys out of the box like I could. If he moved to forward, he would have a longer career."

We suspected Al Horford would be a great NBA player. We watched him play on two national championship teams at Florida. It follows that when the Hawks drafted him third overall in 2007, we were overcome with the rarest of Hawks draft-day sensations: comfort.

But what has been stunning is that Horford has turned into an impact player at the wrong position. He just made the NBA's Eastern Conference All-Star team for the second straight season as a center.

Granted, this isn't the 1970s or '80s and the NBA isn't well-populated with dominant centers. Horford, at 6-10, 245, hardly captains the Lollipop Guild. But he still is playing out of position and succeeding only because of his sheer will, determination and talent.

How good would he be as a power forward?

"He'd be a beast," coach Larry Drew said.

Horford is a rarity, not just on the Hawks but among athletes on Atlanta sports teams: He is universally embraced. Nobody thinks he underachieves or is overpaid. He is a leader. He is honest. When others have made excuses for losses, Horford has stepped forward and suggested too many teammates were operating as individuals and not within the framework of a team.