With the Palace of Auburn Hills no more than a cloud of dust, we have time to reminisce on the best 30 years of Detroit Pistons basketball.
Death by detonation was the long-time inevitable fate of the revered Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the Detroit Pistons from 1988-2017. Still, to those who hold dear memories at the venue, it seemed to happen much too soon.
On July 11, eight hundred pounds of dynamite struck took down the remainder of the 32 year old venue, leaving only debris to sort through from what used to be an area of immense pride in metro Detroit.
The Palace will always be the setting of the glory days of the two greatest eras of basketball Detroit has ever seen.
While the building is in ashes, the memories and video footage from the Palace will stand steady for decades to come. Home to two of the most beloved teams in the history of Detroit sports, the “Bad Boys” and “Goin to Work” squads embodied the city like very few sports team have before. The hard work and grit will always be admired in this city over glitz and glamour.
The building design was emulated by several North American arenas since it’s creation because of the massive upgrade and creative construction of private suites.
The move to downtown Detroit will eventually be a great move for the Pistons when the team turns over a new leaf, yet seeing the building implode will always be tough to watch.
The Palace will always be the setting of plenty of great memories since its inception. Now, let’s take a (somewhat) deep dive into the best individual game performances the venue has seen over the years. Feel free to comment some of your best memories from the Palace in the comment section!
Honorable mention: Grant Hill – February 8, 1999
46 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists (14-21 FG)
Grant Hill’s 46 point performance against the Wizards in February of the 1999 shortened season was the most points scored at the time by any player at the Palace until…well, see the last slide.
Hill took advantage of one-on-one opportunities early in the first half and finished with a then Palace record of 31 points at halftime.
This Wizards’ team had an experienced group of proven veterans given the task to contain the budding star on this night. Not to mention Juwan Howard and Ben Wallace were coming off the bench on the frontline.
Hill shot the ball well all night and instinctively got to the rim at will. He shot 18-22 from behind the free throw line which is a career high.
As one of the biggest “what-ifs?” in NBA history, Hill’s time in Detroit was undoubtedly the best of his career before it was halted by injuries.
The era between the Pistons two championship runs was a strange time for fans. The team drafted a couple great individual players in Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse who were electrifying to watch but the teams were not winning.
Still, Grant Hill and the teel jersey represents a fun transitional period for Detroit basketball.
3. Anthony Davis – February 21, 2016
59 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists (24-34FG)
Not only did the 23-year-old Davis record his career high and set the record for most points ever scored at the Palace in one night, but yours truly was there in the crowd to witness it.
In what seemed like the most normal night of NBA regular season basketball, Davis made sure everyone in attendance remembered this game and his name.
His 59 point 20 rebounds outburst was impressive in many ways but mainly the way he was scoring from all three levels. He shot 24-34 from the field including draining both his three point attempts and shot 9-10 from the charity stripe.
He truly made it look as easy as it could to torch an opposing NBA defense on this night.
The game essentially was neck and neck throughout most of the 48 minutes, which makes it that much more impressive from Davis. His 19 points in the 4th quarter and game sealing three pointer with 2 minutes left capped a near perfect performance.
Davis has been superstar since his freshman year at Kentucky and his improvement offensively since he entered the league has made him one of the most valuable players in the league.
2. Dennis Rodman – March 4,1992
10 points, 34 rebounds (18 offensive), 2 steals
The Pistons have had some of the best rebounders in league history make their mark on the franchise, but Rodman may be the best. If there was ever a movie made about the art of rebounding, Rodman would be the poster boy.
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During his time with Detroit, Rodman averaged 11.7 rebounds per game. In the 1991-1992 season he averaged a ridiculous 18.7 rebounds per game.
What makes his numbers even more impressive is the era he did this in. The rules were much different in the 80s/90s and allowed for more physicality that Rodman took advantage of. He certainly was not the tallest player (6’7) but he made up for it with grit and athleticism.
The night that seemed to personify his total NBA value came against the Pacers on March 4, 1992. Rodman tallied a mind bending 34 rebounds, including 18 offensive rebounds leading the Pistons to a 110-107 victory in front of the home crowd at the Palace.
Rodman almost outrebounded the Pacers himself (34-38) this night. A man who cares much more about winning than scoring, “The Worm” embodied everything we love about Detroit basketball.
While most lists like these lean towards offensive performances, Rodman’s insane night deserves to be remembered in the Palace lore forever.
1. LeBron James – May 31, 2007
48 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists (18-33 FG)
No surprise here. In what may have been the greatest game of his illustrious career, this was truly LeBron’s coming out party in the NBA. As tough as it is to watch the highlights from this game, it’s enjoyable to watch the best players give the most effort in Detroit.
In the middle of the Pistons streak of eastern conference finals appearances during the mid-2000s, the Palace was one of the more grueling places to play for opponents. During the playoffs, the arena was a more of a rock concert than a basketball game.
The Pistons were favorites going into the conference finals, as the Cleveland Cavaliers were essentially a one trick pony with James leading the team in essentially every statistical category.
Coming into the night at the Palace, the Cavaliers won both games in Cleveland to even the series at 2-2. Game five turned into the by far the biggest game of the season for both teams, as the winner more than certainly would stamp their ticket to the Finals.
In a game for the ages, James went off for 48 points and scored the teams’ final 25 points in the 4th quarter and OT to take the series over. His game winning layup with 2.2 seconds left in OT by knifing through one of the best defenses of the era will be forever etched into his career highlight reel.
Pistons fans still have a sour taste from this night but James earned his badge of respect from the city. Just like Jordan, you could say going through the Pistons was the challenge LeBron needed in order to take the next step in his career.