NEW YORK -- Grant Hill of the Orlando Magic edged Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal by slightly more than 65,000 votes for a starting spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, according to the NBA, which announced the totals yesterday.
Hill received 1,497,489 votes in fan balloting to O'Neal's 1,432,438, allowing him to join Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, and LeBron James as the starting five for the East at the All-Star game Feb. 20 in Denver.
Yao Ming of the Rockets received a record 2,558,278 votes in winning the starting spot at center for the Western Conference for the third straight year. He will line up alongside Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan of San Antonio, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, and Houston's Tracy McGrady for the 54th version of the league's showcase event.
Shaquille O'Neal's 2,488,089 votes were the second most in All-Star balloting history. The previous record of 2,451,136 for Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls was set in 1997.
James, the Cavaliers' 20-year-old phenom, will be the only first-time All-Star among the starters. Shaquille O'Neal was selected to his 12th All-Star team, Garnett to his eighth; Bryant, Duncan, and Hill to their seventh; Carter and Iverson to their sixth; and McGrady to his fifth.
Hill, sidelined for most of the past three seasons after undergoing four surgical procedures on his troublesome left ankle, was selected an All-Star for the first time since 2001.
"It's amazing. I haven't expected any of this," said Hill. "I was just trying to concentrate on coming in and being healthy and not judging myself or looking at any personal goals.
"It is an honor. It makes you feel good. Getting the love from the fans is a great feeling, because they ultimately support us and support our league." Jermaine O'Neal, an All-Star starter a year ago, missed 15 games earlier this season after being suspended for his part in a brawl with Detroit fans at a Nov. 19 Pacers-Pistons game. He is averaging 26.2 points and 9.3 rebounds, while Hill is averaging 18.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists.
Reserves, selected by the league's coaches, will be announced Tuesday. The Heat's Stan Van Gundy will coach the East, while the West will be led by the coach of the team with the conference's best record after Sunday's games. San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Phoenix's Mike D'Antoni are the candidates.