Nash earns All-Star Starting Berth

Feb. 2, 2006

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and former Santa Clara University star Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns will be a first-time All-Star starter.

Yao Ming edged Kobe Bryant as the top votegetter in fan balloting for the 55th NBA All-Star game Thursday, and Shaquille O'Neal became the fifth player in league history to earn 13 consecutive selections for the midseason showcase.

Yao and Tracy McGrady were joined on the Western Conference squad by Bryant, Tim Duncan and Nash - a Victoria, B.C. native who will be a first-time All-Star starter.

Cleveland's LeBron James was the top Eastern Conference votegetter, edging O'Neal by 15,155 votes. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal and first-time All-Star starter Dwyane Wade of Miami rounded out the East's starting five.

Yao finished with 2,342,738 votes; Bryant had 2,271,631 in the closest finish among the top two players in All-Star balloting since Vince Carter, then of Toronto, edged Miami's Alonzo Mourning by 33,385 votes in 2000.

Nash, meanwhile, is a first-time starter after improving the numbers that earned him MVP honors a year ago. Nash is averaging a career-high 19.1 points and an NBA-leading 11.3 assists this season, the first player since Magic Johnson in 1990-91 to average as much in both categories.

He finished with 1,818,230 votes for the second Western guard spot behind Bryant. McGrady had 1,818,932 votes to lead the West's forwards, while Duncan had 1,518,796 - 39,410 more than Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, who was a starter seven times in his first eight All-Star trips.

Detroit's Flip Saunders will coach the East and Dallas' Avery Johnson will coach the West on Feb. 19 in Houston. The All-Star reserves will be announced Feb. 9.