Yao is All-Star starter
Published: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 12:30 a.m.
NEW YORK - When the ball goes up for the opening tip at the NBA All-Star game Feb. 9 in Atlanta, Yao Ming will be the center trying to win the jump ball for the West.
The 7-foot-6 rookie from China will be starting for the Western Conference after defeating Shaquille O'Neal by almost a quarter-million votes in final fan balloting totals released Thursday.
In the closest race, Kevin Garnett of Minnesota edged Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas for the last starting spot among Western Conference forwards. Garnett received 1,086,780 votes - 7,355 more than Nowitzki.
In the Eastern Conference, Allen Iverson of Philadelphia drew almost 73,000 more votes than Michael Jordan to earn the second guard spot.
Yao will become the first rookie to start in the All-Star game since Grant Hill in 1995.
The rest of the West's starters are Garnett, Tim Duncan of San Antonio, Steve Francis of Houston and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers.
The Eastern Conference starters are Iverson and Orlando's Tracy McGrady, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal and Toronto's Vince Carter at forward, and Ben Wallace of Detroit at center.
Reserves will be announced Tuesday following balloting by the 29 NBA coaches.
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