ORLANDO, Fla. — King James was no match for Superman this time. Still, when it comes to All-Star games, LeBron James isn’t exactly Clark Kent.
After all, the Cavs superstar is the reigning All-Star Game MVP and a two-time All-Star MVP at that.
And he’s only 24.
On Thursday it was announced that James was voted a starter on the Eastern Conference All-Star team by the fans, the fifth straight season he’s received such an honor. James joins Brad Daugherty as the only players to represent the Cavs in five All-Star games and the lone Cavalier to be named an all-star in five straight seasons.
“The All-Star game is always so meaningful to me because of the fans,” said James, whose 24.3-point scoring average is the highest in All-Star game history for players with four or more appearances.
The ultimate honor this season, however went to Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, who received a record 3,150,181 votes. The Feb. 15 game in Phoenix will mark the third All-Star trip for Howard, who’ll be starting for the second time and easily topped the previous record of 2,558,278 votes collected by Houston’s Yao Ming four years ago.
Howard leads the NBA in rebounds, blocked shots and double-doubles.
“Wow, what a blessing,” said Howard, the 6-foot-11 center who dressed in full Superman regalia, cape and all, on the way to winning last year’s slam dunk competition. “That is what I took it as, a blessing from God and then the fans. It’s just a great honor and I was surprised, but like always I thank the fans for everything they have done for us.”
“When I first heard I was leading in votes, I was shocked, to be honest with you,” Howard added. “I really didn’t expect anything considering you have guys like Kobe, LeBron and Dwyane.”
The final results of fan balloting didn’t exactly bring any major surprises.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade (2,741,413 votes) and Detroit’s Allen Iverson (1,804,649) will be in the East’s backcourt, alongside James (2,940,823) and Boston’s Kevin Garnett (2,066,833), who beat New Jersey’s Yi Jianlian for the starting nod by 253,004 votes.
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (2,805,397) was the West’s top vote-getter, and will be joined at guard by New Orleans’ Chris Paul (2,134,798). At center, Yao (2,532,958) will start for the sixth time, along with forwards Tim Duncan of San Antonio (2,578,168) and Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix (1,460,429).
In all, five players (Howard, James, Bryant, Wade and Duncan) topped Yao’s previous record vote mark.
“It’s always an unbelievable honor, because there’s so many great players in this league and so many young guys coming in, when you get named a starter from the fans,” Wade said.
Howard entered Thursday averaging 20.2 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. But on the national stage, Howard still might be best-known for his exploits in last year’s All-Star dunk contest in New Orleans, with his cape sailing on one jam and capping his night by using teammate Jameer Nelson as a prop in another slam.
“That’s his element there. He’s an entertainer. He loves it,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I think sometimes people look at that kind of thing, where Dwight’s out there having a good time, and they doubt the seriousness of a guy. That’s not the case at all. He’s very serious about winning and very serious about being a great player.”
Van Gundy likened Howard’s All-Star antics to what the NBA has come to see from another giant jokester — Shaquille O’Neal.
“Like Shaq, Dwight is a great person who loves to make other people smile and laugh,” Van Gundy said. “That’s what really makes him go. He likes to have a good time and he likes to help other people have a good time. It’s his nature. It’s his character.”
That all being said, O’Neal is reluctant to anoint Howard as the game’s, well, next Shaq.
“He’s a good player, but everything he’s done I’ve invented, so I’m not impressed,” O’Neal said. “For me to get my eyes wide open about another big man, he’ll have to do something that I haven’t seen before or something that I haven’t invented. Everything that he’s done, I’ve invented it.”
For Garnett, it’s his 12th All-Star selection — second-most among active players behind O’Neal’s 14 trips. O’Neal could see that total increase by one; he could easily be announced as a reserve when coaches’ balloting to fill out the seven remaining spots on each roster are announced next week.
“It’s like a good wave, man,” Garnett said. “If you’ve surfed the boogie board, you know you ride it ’til it dies out. And I love boogie boarding. It’s all about that good wave and holding on and holding on for dear life. And once it’s over, you crash and you go out and try to find the next one.”
WHO: Cleveland at Golden State
WHERE: Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.
TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM