Magic C Howard sets NBA All-Star voting record
By Tim Reynolds, AP Sports Writer
ORLANDO, Florida — Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard -- leading the NBA in rebounds, blocked shots and double-doubles -- became the first player to receive 3 million votes from fans to lead this season's All-Star team.
He got 3,150,181 votes when the count was released on Thursday, easily topping the previous record of 2,558,278 votes collected by Houston's Yao Ming four years ago.
The Feb. 15 game in Phoenix will mark the third All-Star trip for Howard, who'll be starting for the second time.
"Wow, what a blessing," said Howard, the 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) center who dressed in full Superman regalia, cape and all, on the way to winning last year's slam dunk competition. "That is what I took it as, a blessing from God and then the fans. It's just a great honor and I was surprised, but like always I thank the fans for everything they have done for us."
The final results of fan balloting didn't exactly bring any major surprises.
Miami's Dwyane Wade (2,741,413) and Detroit's Allen Iverson (1,804,649) will be in the Eastern Conference backcourt, alongside reigning All-Star MVP LeBron James of Cleveland (2,940,823) and Boston's Kevin Garnett (2,066,833), who beat New Jersey's Yi Jianlian for the starting nod by 253,004 votes.
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (2,805,397) was the Western Conference's top vote-getter, and will be joined at guard by New Orleans' Chris Paul (2,134,798). At center, Yao (2,532,958) will start for the sixth time, along with forwards Tim Duncan of San Antonio (2,578,168) and Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix (1,460,429).
"When I first heard I was leading in votes, I was shocked, to be honest with you," Howard said. "I really didn't expect anything considering you have guys like Kobe, LeBron and Dwyane."
Howard entered Thursday averaging 20.2 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks for the Magic.
For Garnett, it's his 12th All-Star selection -- second-most among active players behind Shaquille O'Neal's 14 trips. O'Neal could see that total increase by one; he could easily be announced as a reserve when coaches' balloting to fill out the seven remaining spots on each roster are announced next week.
Much like the East, the West voting was a bit predictable.
Stoudemire's spot turned out to be the most vulnerable; he nipped San Antonio's Bruce Bowen -- who wasn't even starting for the Spurs right now -- in the starters' balloting by 68,031 votes.
In all, five players (Howard, James, Bryant, Wade and Duncan) all topped Yao's previous record vote mark.
"It's always an unbelievable honor, because there's so many great players in this league and so many young guys coming in, when you get named a starter from the fans," Wade said.