AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — LeBron James will play his last regular-season game in the arena where he first truly realized his potential for greatness when the Detroit Pistons host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
Ten years ago James, just 22 years old, scored 48 points against the Pistons in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The win, which included James scoring his team’s final 25 points and 29 of its final 30 in the 109-107 overtime victory, helped the Cavs upset the Pistons in six games after Detroit started the series up 2-0.
The Palace, located approximately 35 miles northwest of downtown Detroit, will no longer be home for the Pistons after this season. They will move into Little Caesars Arena in Detroit beginning with the start of the 2017-18 season.
“I’ve had a lot of memories obviously,” said James, who has averaged 23.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 25 regular-season games at the Palace, going 14-11. “It’s been fun to play here in this building and see the history. This went up in ’89 I believe. I’ve had a lot of games here, a lot of battles with a lot of great teams and the fans have always been pretty great. That will continue to happen when they move downtown, too.”
The Palace actually opened its doors in August 1988 and was the Pistons’ home for their three championship seasons in 1989, 1990 and 2004.
Detroit had championship aspirations in 2007 as the No. 1 seed in the East as well until James’ No. 2-seeded Cavs took the Pistons out thanks in large part to James’ brilliance in Game 5.
“I haven’t ranked games yet for me because I’m still going and still playing,” James said when asked to put that performance up against others in his career. “When I played that particular game that night, I was exhausted. I had nothing left after that game. I left everything out on the floor and we was able to close that series out back at home in Game 6. I haven’t had time to rank what I’ve done so far.” Cavs assistant coach Larry Drew, who was coaching the Atlanta Hawks back in 2007, had no problem ranking that game by James among the most notable showings in league history.
“I thought that was a phenomenal performance by an individual,” Drew said. “You can look at guys throughout our league, the 81 that Kobe (Bryant) scored, you have to put that in that same mode of guys that have the ability to do those type things. You don’t forget, you don’t forget ‘em. I’ve had the opportunity to be around Kobe and coach ‘Bron and a lot of these other great guys, Magic (Johnson); I was with Michael (Jordan). You always remember those type situations when guys do have those type of performances.”
While James is ranked eighth on the all-time scoring list, he’s always defined his play by more than just putting the ball in the bucket, which makes that game against the Pistons stand out even more.
“I’ve been in some good zones before, I’ve put up some big numbers,” said James who added that he has the jersey and sneakers he wore that night against Detroit as keepsakes. “But the one thing I’ve always kept on my mind is what the main goal is and that’s to win. I’m not a high volume guy. I’m not just casting up shots and hopefully see things go in or try to get in a rhythm. I’ve always understood scoring time and things of that nature and what’s going on in the game and keeping the main focus, and that’s to win.