Kobe Leads Way; Yao Tops Shaq

From Associated Press

Coming off the birth of his first child on Sunday, Kobe Bryant got something else new on Thursday.

Bryant, the Lakers' star guard, became the leading overall vote-getter for the first time with 1,474,386 as a Western Conference starter for the NBA All-Star game Feb. 9 in Atlanta.

Bryant's teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, however, will not be a starter for only the second time since 1993, losing out to Houston's Yao Ming at center in the final fan balloting. Yao had 1,286,324 votes to O'Neal's 1,049,081.

Yao will become the first rookie to start in the All-Star game since Grant Hill in 1995.

In the closest race, Kevin Garnett (1,086,780) of Minnesota edged Dirk Nowitzki (1,079,425) of Dallas for the last starting spot among Western Conference forwards by 7,355 votes.

In the Eastern Conference, Allen Iverson of Philadelphia drew almost 73,000 more votes than Michael Jordan to earn the second guard spot.

The other West starters are Tim Duncan of San Antonio and Steve Francis of Houston.

The Eastern Conference starters are Iverson and Orlando's Tracy McGrady, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal and Toronto's Vince Carter and Ben Wallace of Detroit. McGrady was the leading vote-getter in the East with 1,316,297.

Reserves will be announced Tuesday following balloting by the 29 NBA coaches.

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