The Houston Rockets’ Yao Ming, helped by the ability of fans to cast votes on the NBA’s multi-lingual website, received a record total of 2.56 million votes for the 54th All-Star Game.
Yao’s selection as the Western Conference centre sets up a showdown with Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal, who had the most votes in the East at 2.49 million.
Yao and O’Neal were announced Thursday as starters for the midseason meeting February 20 in Denver, which will feature plenty of familiar faces, one new one and another making a welcome return after a long absence.
China’s Yao was voted a starter for the third time in as many NBA seasons despite modest statistics this season of 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
O’Neal makes his return as starter for the first time since 2002.
Traded in the offseason, O’Neal has averaged 23.0 points and 10.6 rebounds and has the Heat atop the East.
This will be the 12th All-Star Game for O’Neal, the MVP of last year’s contest.