Now entering his 17th season in the NBA, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has produced more than a few unforgettable performances throughout his decorated tenure in the league. However, there is arguably none more memorable than LeBron’s heroic outing on May 31, 2007 when his Cleveland Cavaliers faced off against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.
By scoring 29 out of the Cavs’ final 30 points on the evening, LeBron would produce a masterpiece that is worthy of being in serious contention as one of the best playoff performances of all time. Today, we take a look back at this astounding display of sheer will and skill some 12 years ago.
The year was 2007. LeBron was a 22-year-old in just his fourth season in the league. Nevertheless, at that point, he had already established himself as a bona fide superstar, earning his third consecutive All-Star nod that season. James was killing it all year long. So much so, that he led the Cavs to a 50-win season, which was good for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference entering the postseason.
LeBron and company made easy work of Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards in the first round, winning the series in a clean four-game sweep. A Jason Kidd-led New Jersey Nets side would put up a more formidable fight in the second round, but it was still Cleveland who would emerge victorious in the series after six games.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, James and the Cavs would face off against the Pistons, who happened to be the first seed in the conference. Chauncey Billups and company would take the first two games of the series in their home floor, but the Cavs would bounce back, evening out the series after winning Games 3 and 4.
With the series tied at two games apiece, Game 5 would prove to be a pivotal matchup. Cleveland had the momentum, but the Pistons were playing at home, and as we all know, when it comes to home court advantage, few arenas can match the intensity produced by the Palace of Auburn Hills.
When the lights were the brightest, LeBron James would happily oblige. It was a tight contest from the get-go, and when it mattered the most, James made sure that he would make his mark in what would turn out to be an historic contest.
With 3 minutes remaining in the fourth and final frame, the Pistons were in the driver’s seat, holding a seven-point advantage. James knew what was at stake, and with his team in a hole, he took the ball hard to the basket, coming up with a three-point play. Little did anyone know that this was the start of what was literally a one-man show.
In the dying seconds of regulation, James would once again drive to the basket and finish strong. He would tie the game at 91 with less than 10 seconds remaining, effectively sending the game into overtime.
James would keep it going in the two overtime periods, scoring all of Cleveland’s 18 points in the extra frames. He was simply unstoppable, knocking down jumper after jumper, and forcing his way to the basket at will. LeBron closed things out with a go-ahead lay-up — against pretty much all five Pistons players — with just 2 seconds remaining.
In what was truly an epic performance, James finished with 48 points on 18-of-33 shooting, two three-pointers, nine rebounds, seven assists, and two steals in 50 minutes of action.
The Cavs would come away with the crucial victory in Game 5, and would end up closing out the series at home in Game 6. It was truly a memorable run to the Finals for James and company, but they were simply no match to the San Antonio Spurs, who would end up winning their third championship in the last five years. Cleveland bowed out after a humbling four-game sweep courtesy of Tim Duncan and the Spurs.
Nevertheless, despite how anticlimactic things turned out for LeBron and his Cavs to end the season, the message was crystal clear. LeBron James had definitely arrived, and with virtually one unforgettable playoff performance, he pretty much silenced his critics. At that point, anyone who had any doubts on whether or not LeBron was the real thing was given a quick reality check. James announced his arrival, and proved to the whole basketball world that he was indeed the phenom — that he would eventually become one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.
And the rest, as they say, is history.