When the Detroit Pistons kicked off their final game at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday, April 10, 2017, it was the end of an era. Fans, Pistons veterans and the media came out to say goodbye to the arena that has been home to the three-time NBA champion Bad Boys since its grand opening in 1988.
The historic building has hosted some unforgettable moments over the years — from three championships to the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004 involving ex-NBA star Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) and Eastern Conference rivals, the Indiana Pacers. Even with the Pistons trailing early to the Washington Wizards by 15 points, nothing could put a damper on the momentous occasion. Fans were treated to one final appearance by Pistons greats at center court such as Chauncey Billups, Isiah Thomas, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, John Salley, Rip Hamilton, Jerry Stackhouse and even Dennis Rodman took to the floor to pay homage to 28 years of history in Auburn Hills.
At a time when venues of its kind were only represented on the East and West coasts, the Palace put Detroit on the map with a sleek, modern arena ahead of its time. After roughly three decades of bouncing around between Olympia, Cobo, the Silverdome and a brief stint at Joe Louis Arena, the budding basketball franchise finally had a place to call its own and what better name than one hand selected by the city in which it was built.
To the league, the state of the art arena raised the bar on how NBA arenas were designed but to fans, players and staff, the Palace wasn’t just a cutting-edge building — it was home.
“This was our spot. This was our home. Our house became symbolic for our fans. You come here to get beat,” said ex- Pistons point guard and New York Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas.
As the Pistons first official DJ, deejaying at the Palace was a career milestone of sorts for celebrity DJ Earl “Mixxin” McKinney.
“My most profound memories of many at the Palace began with the very first time I walked onto the arena floor for soundcheck as the team’s first official DJ for The Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Shock [now Oklahoma Shock]. The floor was soooooooo much larger than I ever imagined from watching the games up high or on television. To speak on the mic each time for every sellout game was electrifying! The fierce playoff games with Cleveland from 2006 through 2009 were fan-frenzied and the Shock’s 2006 and 2008 championship runs were Motor City Madness at it’s BEST! The players were always so embracing that I felt like I was a part of the team. Watching the last game and remembering all of that was bittersweet. The players, the fans, the Palace family that is DETROIT!! The move to the city will continue to bring all of that together for what will be REAL Detroit Basketball.”
Rodney Lamar Page couldn’t be in the building to catch the Pistons last hurrah at the Palace but that didn’t stop him from sharing his favorite memories on Facebook: “I was a little emotional watching the last Detroit Pistons game. I have been a Pistons fan for over 28 years… even longer than I have been a Michigan State fan! Even though I am happy the Pistons are moving to downtown Detroit I am sad that there will be no more games at The Palace of Auburn Hills. I always enjoyed attending games at the Palace and cheering on the Pistons! I also had the opportunity to DJ for the Pistons for one season and even play the violin at a halftime show! I would like to thank the Pistons organization and everyone at the Palace for so many great memories!”
Even though she recently moved out of state, longtime Detroit Pistons fan Jackie Giammara still holds a special place in her heart for the Motor City squad. “I am so excited the team will be downtown. I’m just sad I moved out of the city before it happened. I have always been in love with Detroit sports and it’s incredible to have all the teams together! My favorite memory of the Pistons at the Palace was when Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups played. I scored courtside seats and Ben flew out of bounds. His hair was inches from my feet.”
What will be missed most? For some, there’s the jersey retirement ceremonies, the legendary performances by icons like Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin and Barbara Streisand and, of course, the championships but more importantly, it’s the shared memories bonding over Detroit basketball with family and friends. Now that the Pistons have officially packed up the Palace for the greener pastures of the Detroit District, the legacy that began in the Motor City has come full circle to the heart of the city, right where it belongs.