Arenas edges Carter for starting nod; LeBron is top pick

NEW YORK -- Gilbert Arenas pulled out another late victory.

The Washington star surged past Vince Carter in the final days of All-Star voting to claim the second Eastern Conference guard spot by 3,010 votes Thursday, the fourth-closest margin for a starting spot.

LeBron James, the MVP last year, led all players with more than 2.5 million votes for the Feb. 18 game in Las Vegas.

The first All-Star Game held outside an NBA city will maintain one traditional look: Shaquille O'Neal was chosen to his 14th straight All-Star Game, tying Jerry West and Karl Malone for the most consecutive selections.

Arenas was 214,460 votes behind Carter two weeks ago but finished with 1,454,166 to Carter's 1,451,156.

"It is an unbelievable feeling," Arenas said. "Two years ago, I was voting myself in for the game. Now fans are voting me in, and I'm going to do what they are looking for. I've got something to give back to the fans during All-Star weekend."

Arenas' rally was the latest January highlight for the guard who has forced his name into the MVP discussion with a series of clutch performances. He hit long 3-pointers to win games against Milwaukee and Utah, is second in the NBA with 29.7 points per game and will become the first Washington player to start since Michael Jordan in 2003. Jordan wasn't voted in by fans but started in place of Carter, who gave up his spot in the lineup.

Arenas, O'Neal and James will be joined in the East lineup by Dwyane Wade and another first-time starter, Toronto forward Chris Bosh.

Injured Houston center Yao Ming led all West players with more than 2.4 million votes. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan were voted in at forward, while Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady won the guard spots.

McGrady held off Denver newcomer Allen Iverson, who would have finished ahead of Arenas to earn a starting spot if he were still in Philadelphia. Iverson started the last seven All-Star Games and was the MVP in 2001 and 2005.

"That was a blessing in disguise," Arenas said about Iverson's move. "It potentially opened years of getting in because of him going out West. He ate up all of the votes, along with Dwyane Wade. Now all I had to do is catch Vince Carter, and that is what I did."

James couldn't quite catch Yao. His total of 2,516,049 votes has been topped only by Yao's 2005 total of 2,558,278.

"That's something I've never dreamed of," James said. "I've always wanted to be an All-Star, but being the leading vote-getter over guys like Vince Carter, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson, you never think that's going to happen. Just getting the opportunity to be the leading vote-getter is kind of unbelievable."

A.C. Green edged Malone by 1,226 votes in 1990 for a starting forward spot; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was 1,817 ahead of Ralph Sampson in 1984; and John Stockton won the West's second guard spot by 2,562 votes over Derek Harper in 1990.

The selection represents an amazing turnaround for Arenas, who was perhaps the biggest snub for last year's game. Eventually added to the East team as an injury replacement, he played only 10 minutes in Houston and had just one point.

"It feels great. I am guaranteed now, and I do not have to leave it in the hands of the coaches voting for me," Arenas said.

With Yao unable to play, commissioner David Stern will choose a replacement for the West roster after the reserves are announced next week. Phoenix's Mike D'Antoni, who will coach the team, will decide who inherits Yao's starting spot.