( dpa )- There was little doubt that Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony would be one of the Western Conference starting forwards in next month's NBA All-Star Game. But he didn't know that teammate Allen Iverson would be joining him in the league's mid-season centerpiece.
Though Anthony was among the top two Western Conference forwards in fan balloting, Iverson trailed Tracy McGrady by 80,000 votes. But he rallied to beat out the Houston Rockets star by 10,410 votes when the final figures were released on Thursday, thus earning his ninth All-Star appearance in New Orleans on February 17.
Iverson started for the East from 2000-06 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers and twice was named the game's Most Valuable Player. He was traded to Denver last season, and named as a reserve but didn't play because of an ankle sprain.
"I was kind of surprised because two weeks ago I was behind him ( McGrady ) by like 80,000 votes, so I was surprised that I caught him so fast," Iverson said. "And to be able to catch somebody with that much talent, it says a lot about the Allen Iverson fans out there."
Iverson will team in the backcourt with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. China's Yao Ming of Houston was voted as the centre for the sixth straight season. Anthony will be making his first start at forward, alongside San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan, who has been named at starter every year since entering the league in 1997.
Boston's Kevin Garnett, the top vote-getter with 2,339,148, leads the Eastern Conference. The 11-time All-Star selection will be joined in the frontcourt by Cleveland's LeBron James. Meanwhile, Orlando centre became a first-time starter, replacing 14-time selection Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat.
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard finished with the third most votes overall (2,066,991) and will make his first career start in his second career All-Star appearance.
"It's an honour to receive the number of votes I did, so the fans have been very gracious to me," Howard said. "Just thank you. I hope I can go out there and perform well.
"It's very big. We have some great centres in this league, Shaquille O'Neal being one of them, and to have the possibility to be able to start over him, it's an honour . To even be in the same sentence as him is an honour ."
Miami's Dwyane Wade and New Jersey' Jason Kidd complete the starting five.
Since being traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the off-season, Garnett has helped the Celtics to a league-best 33-7 record.
Admitting it was an honour to be selected by the fans, Garnett remains focused on winning his elusive first NBA title.
"It's always something when the fans vote for you," Garnett said. "I've always been very honoured and privileged. But for what we are trying to accomplish here and the goal we have set [a championship], it has nothing to do with it. But it is an honour ."
Boston's Doc Rivers and his staff earned the honor to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars by clinching the best winning percentage in the conference through games of February 3. The Western Conference coach has yet to be determined.
The seven reserves on each squad will be selected by head coaches of their respective conferences and will be announced next Thursday.
2008 NBA ALL-STAR final balloting
Eastern Conference: Forwards: Garnett ( Bos ) 2,399,148; James ( Clev ) 2,108,831; Bosh ( Tor )838,498; Pierce ( Bos )574,159; Jianlian (Mil) 450,515; Butler (Wash)340,619; Turkoglu ( Orl ) 301,038; Bargnani ( Tor ) 293,200; Prince ( Det )280,369; Lewis ( Orl ) 240,725.
Guards: Wade (Mia) 1,608,260; Kidd (NJ) 1,246,386; Ray Allen ( Bos ) 1,061,740; Carter (NJ) 981,050; Arenas ( Wash) 797,502; Billups ( Det ) 625,772; Redd (Mil) 375,243; Hamilton ( Det ) 308,357; Johnson ( Atl ) 253,308; Ford ( Tor ) 253,216.
Centres : Howard ( Orl ) 2,066,991; O'Neal (Mia) 965,171; Wallace ( Det ) 303,978; Bogut (Mil) 283,576; Wallace (Chi) 256,604; O'Neal ( Ind ) 217,675; Ilgauskas (Cle) 205,152; Okafor (Char) 147,447; Curry (NY) 107,279; Pachulia ( Atl ) 98,593.
Western Conference: Forwards: Anthony (Den) 1,723,701; Duncan (SA) 1,712,800; Nowitzki ( Dal ) 1,259,025; Boozer (Utah) 553,624; Marion ( Phx ) 514,142; Battier ( Hou ) 475,483; Durant (Sea) 463,187; Scola ( Hou ) 424,470; Howard ( Dal ) 423,973; Hill ( Phx ) 389,672.
Guards: Bryant (LAL) 2,004,940; Iverson (Den) 1,203,152; McGrady ( Hou ) 1,192,742; Nash ( Phx ) 1,174,125; Paul (NO) 563,525; Ginobili (SA) 541,148; Parker (SA) 500,009; Davis (GS) 499,186; Terry ( Dal ) 300,125; Stackhouse ( Dal ) 270,412.
Centres : Yao Ming ( Hou ) 1,709,180; Stoudemire ( Phx ) 998,969; Camby (Den) 412,563; Chandler (NO) 289,593; Dampier ( Dal ) 254,662; Aldridge ( Por ) 216,271; Gasol ( Mem ) 206,408; Okur ( Utah) 202,403; Kaman (LAC) 189,385; Biedrins (GS) 161,411.