China's Yao Ming received his sixth appearance in the Natioal Basketball Association All-Star Game on Thursday, booking a spot against Dwight Howard, the most popular vote-getter in NBA history.
Orlando's Dwight Howard set a record by receiving 3,150,181 fan votes to claim the starting center berth for the Eastern Conference in final results announced ahead of the 58th annual showcase event on February 15 at Phoenix, Arizona.
Howard will make his third All-Star appearance opposite Yao, who held the previous high mark of 2,558,278 from 2005. This year's five top vote-getters surpassed that mark with Yao's 2009 total of 2,532,958 just off his old mark.
Cleveland playmaker LeBron James, NBA scoring leader Dwyane Wade of Miami, Boston's Kevin Garnett and Detroit's Allen Iverson will join Howard in the Eastern Conference starting lineup thanks to worldwide fan voting.
It will be Garnett's 12th All-Star starting nod, two shy of Shaquille O'Neal's all-time record.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar guard Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan of San Antonio were named to their 11th All-Star squads in the West, joining Yao, Chris Paul of New Orleans and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire.
Phil Jackson of the Lakers will coach the West squad based upon team records. The coach of the East team has not yet been decided but last year's East coach, Boston's Doc Rivers, is not eligible.
Others who passed Yao's former vote mark this year include James on 2.94 million, Bryant on 2.80 million, Wade on 2.74 million and Duncan 2.58 million.
Reserves to the respective teams will be named next week by NBA coaches.
China's Yi Jianlian of the New Jersey Nets was third in the East balloting for forwards behind James and Garnett, whose 2.06 million votes denied Yi, who had 1.81 million.
(Agencies via China Daily January 2009)