The Palace of Auburn Hills meant a lot things to a lot of people. To the Detroit Pistons, it was their home from 1988-2017. To their fans, it was the building that housed all three of the franchise’s championships. To the best player in the world, LeBron James, it’s where he grew into a “basketball man”.
When asked if he missed The Palace, James told Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, “I don’t know, man. It’s all good. I’m ready to play in any arena.”
However, when reflecting for a moment on how pivotal a role the Pistons played in James’ overall legacy and career-arc, it became evident James’ coming into the basketball behemoth we know him as today doesn’t happen without the Pistons.
“They definitely have a chapter in my book,” he said.
James won just seven of his first 20 games against the Pistons, and was a putrid two and eight against the Positions at the Palace. That’s expected though. James’ Cavaliers were really bad his first two years in the league, and that also happens to be when the ‘Going to Work’ Pistons were at their peak.
It didn’t take James long to study those Pistons and get his own game up to par.
“They helped me out with my development, my mental side of the game,” James said. “It worked my mental toughness, my physical toughness, just my competitive nature, going against those teams.
“Just in understanding what you need in order to be successful, how to win and how to compete.”
The Pistons met James and the Cavaliers in the 2006 Eastern Conference semifinals defeating them in seven games before losing to the Miami Heat, falling just short of their third straight NBA Finals appearance. Perhaps losing to Miami was the first chink in the Pistons armor because the very next year LeBron James would put his sword in their heart and end them for good.
In Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals James put on one of the most remarkable individual performances in NBA history. James scored the Cavs final 25 points and 29 of their last 30 to lead the Cavs to a double-overtime win on the road taking a 3-2 series lead that they would not relinquish.
“It was a big moment for our franchise at that time and for me has a young kid at that time,” he said. “I just wanted to try and make plays and implement my stamp on the game. I was able to do that on that particular night.”
You sure were, LeBron. That night birthed many things. This editorial, the unraveling of the Pistons franchise, and the undeniable truth that Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world.