Why NBA Superstars Are Made in the Offseason

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers moves the ball in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There's a reason we all think of Kobe Bryant as one of the greatest all-time scorers despite the fact that he's only led his league in the category twice.

He's scored when it mattered most.

Allen Iverson led the league in scoring four times, but his postseason legacy trails Bryant's by a long shot. It's the same thing that separates Carmelo Anthony from Paul Pierce, Deron Williams from Tony Parker, and a slew of good power forwards from Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

It's one thing to prove you're talented. It's another to prove you're a winner.

In all fairness, yes, a lot of that difference has more to do with the drama surrounding the playoffs than anything else. The increased media attention and do-or-die dynamics make the postseason a mecca for hype.

But, with that hype comes plenty of pressure.

There's no doubt that some stars have done a better job of consistently thriving under that pressure. Those are usually the stars who go supernova on us while the world is watching in awe.

Michael Jordan wasn't the first to make the playoffs his own personal stage, but none have done it better.

He did amazing things, and he let you know that he knew they were amazing. His timing was impeccable, and his ability to will his team to victory is still unmatched. Most importantly, though, he was at his best in the postseason, and that's where those six rings come from.

Kevin Durant and LeBron James have become the latest to separate themselves from the pack.

They haven't matched MJ just yet, but they've gotten off to a fine start.

Durant took over the Oklahoma City Thunder's series against the San Antonio Spurs, leading the team to four-straight victories after dropping Games 1 and 2 on the road. He made 13-20 field-goal attempts in a crucial six-point Game 4 victory, and he closed the series out with a 34-point Game 6.

Needless to say, LeBron James returned the favor in the NBA Finals, coming one rebound shy of a triple-double in Game 4 and then racking up 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in Game 5.

The tired suggestions that James shrank in the biggest moments were refuted throughout the 2012 postseason as the 27-year-old put the Miami Heat on his back throughout Chris Bosh's absence.

He kept them there in those all-important NBA Finals, adding the credentials to match his superstar talent.

Of course, legacies aren't built on numbers and single-game performances alone.

They're also built upon moments of greatness that transcended the final score, moments we're far more likely to remember when all is said and done. Whether it's a last-second shot or a stretch that changed the game's momentum, fans know those moments when they see them.

That's something record books and stat lines will never be able to capture.