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NEW YORK – Allen Iverson was voted to start in the All-Star game Thursday, while Steve Nash and Tim Duncan made late moves to claim starting spots for the Western Conference.
Nash passed the inactive Tracy McGrady as the second guard, while Duncan disappointed Dallas fans hoping to see Dirk Nowitzki start by rallying past the Mavericks forward.
LeBron James was the leading vote-getter for the Feb. 14 game at Cowboys Stadium, becoming the first player to earn at least 2.5 million votes three times. He will make his sixth All-Star appearance, all as a starter.
“The fans still love and see what I do every night and they appreciate it, and I appreciate them for electing me as an All-Star starter,” James said before the Cavaliers hosted the Los Angeles Lakers. “It’s still special.”
Joining James and Iverson as East starters were Miami guard Dwyane Wade, Orlando center Dwight Howard and Boston forward Kevin Garnett.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was picked in the West along with Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire and Denver forward Carmelo Anthony.
Starters were decided by fan balloting at NBA arenas and electronically. The reserves will be chosen by votes by the head coaches in each conference and will be announced next Thursday.
The fans still love Iverson, even though he’s played only 19 games during the worst season of his career. He appeared on the West ballot since he began the season in Memphis, but he and the Grizzlies parted ways following only three games.
Iverson’s votes counted in the East since he rejoined the Philadelphia 76ers, his longtime team. He is averaging only 14.8 points with the 76ers, but will get a shot at earning a third All-Star game MVP award if he chooses to play.
Bothered by a sore knee, Iverson previously said he would consider his health before deciding whether to play in the All-Star game for the 10th time. He’s been an All-Star for 11 straight seasons, but missed the 2007 game because of injury.
“I just want to thank everybody for their support this season and it’s an honor that the fans have voted me into the All-Star game as a starter,” Iverson said in a statement. “The fans are who make us and make the NBA so popular. This year is even more special because I’ll be representing a city and fans that I love and a team that has been such a big part of my life throughout my career.”
A McGrady election would have been a bigger embarrassment for the NBA, since he has played sparingly in only six games for the Houston Rockets. The team gave him permission to leave the team and work out on his own while trying to find a trade, yet McGrady still was second among West guards when the most recent update was released on Jan. 7.
That sparked some criticisms of the voting process, but Nash and New Orleans’ Chris Paul both moved ahead of McGrady in the final days of voting.
Duncan’s late surge gives him a 12th All-Star appearance. Bryant, who claimed his third All-Star game MVP last year when he shared it with Shaquille O’Neal in Phoenix, also will be appearing for the 12th time.
Garnett’s selection was his 13th, trailing only O’Neal (15) among active players.
The NBA expects more than 80,000 fans, which would be the largest crowd ever to witness a live basketball game.
It’s a return to Dallas for Nash, who spent six seasons with the Mavericks before signing with the Suns in 2004. He and Stoudemire give Phoenix two starters in an All-Star game for only the second time, joining Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle in 1995.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.