LeBron James has had a number of jaw-dropping playoff performances in his soon-to-be Hall of Fame career, but arguably none compares to what he pulled off 10 years ago Wednesday. It was the 2007 Eastern Conference finals and a young Cavs squad was facing a Detroit Pistons team that had reached the conference finals for the fifth consecutive time.
It was years before LeBron would break the hearts of Cleveland fans and form a super team in Miami. It was also at a time when he was basically playing 1-on-5 nearly every time he touched the floor, lifting up a roster that depended on the then-22-year-old to do virtually everything.
And that was never more apparent than in Game 5 against the Pistons. With the series tied 2-2, James unleashed a one-man performance for the ages. It all started with 6:05 left in the fourth quarter and the Cavs clinging to a 79-78 lead over the host Pistons.
James scored 29 of the Cavs’ final 30 points during a 16-minute span that stretched from the fourth quarter into double overtime. To make the feat even more impressive, that Detroit roster was one of the best defensive units in recent memory.
It made no difference. James attacked the rim virtually at will as the Pistons tried in vain to slow down the one-man wrecking ball. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince each had their shot at the young King, but it was no use.
“We threw everything we had at him,” Billups said after the game. “We just couldn’t stop him.”
Then-Pistons head coach Flip Saunders was also at a loss for words.
“We tried to trap him and get it out of his hands, but he attacked,” Saunders said. “We’ll definitely have to do something different next time.”
When the dust settled, James finished with 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, hitting 18-of-33 from the field while playing 50 minutes. He was visibly winded after the virtuoso performance.
“I’m banged up. I’m winded. I’m fatigued,” he said. “I’ve got all day tomorrow. It’s going to be tough to get some rest when you got a crazy, 2-year-old running around the house. So hopefully, I can take him to one of his grandmas’ house.”
The Cavs would go on to win the series in six games as James reached his first NBA Finals. Cleveland eventually was swept by the Spurs in that series, but that Game 5 effort gave NBA fans a glimpse of what was to come from the budding superstar.