NBA Playoffs 2012: Stars Who Will Shine Brightest on the Biggest Stage

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IApril 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Kevin Ebanks #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate in the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on April 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The  Lakers won 114-106 in double overtime.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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True NBA legends are made in the playoffs, and these guys will further cement their legend with sparkling postseason performances. 

The three following players are stars for a reason, and they will prove it once again. For two of them, age has brought them close to their last chance at true domination.

The other has a few more years in the tank, but he is going to have a much harder time leading his team to a deep run to showcase his talents. 


Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 06:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he is fouled in front of Goran Dragic #3 of the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on April 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Harry How/Getty Images

The Black Mamba is nearing the end of his championship window. He knows it, and he is not going to go quietly into that good night. 

Kobe has had a fantastic season. Sure, his shooting percentage is low, but with as big a burden that he has to carry on the offensive end, it is slightly more acceptable. 

Compared to recent seasons, Bryant enters these playoffs as the picture of perfect health. His knee appears to have held up well, and the shin issues that caused him to miss a recent stretch of games is not only gone, but it gave him a nice little break just before the playoffs. 

Kobe is going to come up big on offense and defense in these playoffs, and he gave us all a little taste of that in their big win against the Thunder last week. 

Kobe struggled with his shot almost all game, and then he buried the Thunder in true Mamba-closing style. He also played great D on Russell Westbrook. 

That is the Kobe we will see in the playoffs, only he won't struggle with his shot for three quarters every game. 


Kevin Garnett

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 14:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics looks on during warm ups against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on April 14, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

KG's days of domination are even closer to an end than Kobe's. But that will mean very little in the short window that is the playoffs. 

The Celtics have had a nice late-season resurgence. At one point, they were in danger of not even making the playoffs. 

They have turned things around, and KG is a big reason. He has shown flashes of the old KG, and he likes to do that in big games. In the Celtics' win over the Heat on April 10, Garnett had 24 points on 11-14 shooting in that contest. He also chipped in nine boards. 

He has sat out the Celtics' last two games with hip issues, but that is likely a lot more precautionary than serious. 

Garnett is just getting ready for one last hurrah.


Carmelo Anthony

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on April 13, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using
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Carmelo Anthony is going to have an excellent playoffs, and he is going to have to if the Knicks want to last more than four games. 

They are headed for a matchup with the Miami Heat in the first round, and what a first-round matchup that will be: Carmelo vs. LeBron.

This matchup has always brought out the best in Melo, and these playoffs will be no different. 

He certainly won't be hurting for touches. The Knicks are going to have to rely heavily on his scoring to have a chance. 

I honestly do not expect the Knicks to advance past the first round, but they will win a couple and make it interesting, and all along the way, Carmelo will be filling up the stat sheet.