Legacies are made and destroyed in the playoffs. Oddly enough, we tend to collectively rewrite them, falling prey to recency bias. Peyton Manning couldn’t win the big one until he won the big one but now he can’t win the big one again.

Go figure.

The one guy that has consistently seen his credentials questioned is Carmelo Anthony.

In the interest of full disclosure, it’s doubtful that anyone has wavered more on his talents and exploits than yours truly. Once upon a time, the word overrated was used in conjunction with Melo.

And then at the start of the 2012-13 campaign, I wrote a piece titled Knicks Fans Getting the Carmelo Anthony They’ve Always Deserved.

So what gives? The answer gives a fairly accurate depiction of Anthony’s career arc.

Superstars are expected to carry their teams during playoff runs and give them a chance against elite competition. The term invokes the names of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Derrick Rose to name a few.

Anthony is often placed in the conversation, although one could argue that he consistently inserts himself into the discussion and then sees himself out of it.

The regular season is his baby. During the 82-game grind, Melo performs admirably under the bright lights and treats fans to exceptional performances. Whether this was as a member of the Denver Nuggets or as a current employee of the New York Knicks, Melo has long been a stud.

However, once the postseason rolls around, his play typically fizzles out fairly quickly. His teams rarely last long in the playoffs.

In eight of his nine NBA seasons, Anthony’s teams have been eliminated in the first round. Granted, not all of the blame can be shifted on his shoulders. The man had teammates for crying out loud.

But the one thing that all can point in his direction is obvious: his own performance.

Throughout the entirety of his career, save for a few exceptions here and there, he’s been underwhelming in the playoffs. Have a quick look at the comparison between his regular season numbers and postseason:







Regular Season












His scoring takes a slight increase in the playoffs, and the same applies to his rebounding figures, but those actually come as a result of the increased minutes played in the postseason.

It’s a bit more prudent in this instance to verify his numbers in both scenarios projected over 36 minutes per game to get a much more accurate look at his production:






Regular Season per 36 mins





Playoffs per 36 mins





His playoff performance when compared head-to-head with the regular season shows a decline in points, assists and marksmanship from the field.

Against tougher postseason competition, Melo has had issues converting from the field and it’s reduced his overall effectiveness as a player.

Fair or not, his inability to rise to the occasion for the most part during the playoffs coupled with his teams’ early exits lead to many vacillating on the merits of his inclusion into the group of elite players in league.

Games 4 and 5 of the 2013 opening round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics have reminded fans of this dynamic. With an opportunity to close out a proud Celtics team, the Anthony of old has reemerged.

He’s been settling for a multitude of mid-range jumpers and clanking them with frequent regularity. He got himself to the free throw line and still scored 29 points on average in both contests, but only converted 18-of-59 field goal attempts (30.5 percent).

Fast-forward to the present, and all of this can be forgotten.

In June 2012, LeBron James faced a similar dilemma. Although his team was facing a 3-2 series deficit, the reigning league MVP had to go to Boston for a Game 6 that may have defined his career in defeat. Instead, he submitted arguably the greatest playoff performance of his career in victory and used the win to propel the Miami Heat to a title.

The circumstances aren’t as dire for Anthony given that the New York Knicks actually have 3-2 lead in their series against the Boston Celtics. Nonetheless, Game 6 in Boston could be construed as a legacy-defining game.

It’s not quite do or die, but Melo’s best will certainly be expected. Anything less could result in a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden with the world awaiting for an unprecedented NBA playoff collapse.

Anthony can’t erase his past playoff failures with a victory tonight, but it will certainly help soften up the blow when history looks back on his career. The Knicks and their fans need their leading scorer to be at the top of his game going forward.

Otherwise, he might be tagged with some of the most unflattering labels in sports and those tend to stick. It’s the difference between making the Hall of Fame and talking about possibly joining the fraternity.

Tonight won’t necessarily alter Anthony’s legacy one way or another, but it’s certainly part of the story. And so far, his story just isn’t all that good.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].