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Shaq up for his 13th All-Star game

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The NBA All-Star Game is when Shaquille O'Neal could easily add "Big Godfather" to his endless list of nicknames. The league's oldest All-Star (he'll be 34 next month) has taken the weekend under his wing in past years, showing the younger All-Stars how to have fun and making it a fan-friendly time. Everyone usually follows his lead.
Shaquille O'Neal has made sure NBA All-Star Weekend is a fan-friendly one. Shaquille O'Neal has made sure NBA All-Star Weekend is a fan-friendly one.
By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

Things should be no different this weekend in Houston.

The T-Mobile Rookie Challenge is Friday (9 p.m. ET, TNT); the PlayStation Skills Challenge, Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk contest and Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout are Saturday (8-11 p.m. ET, TNT) and the All-Star Game is Sunday (8 p.m. ET, TNT). All of these events will be at Toyota Center.

O'Neal, picked for his 13th consecutive All-Star Game, is only the fifth player in league history to reach that milestone. He received the fourth-highest total in fan balloting to pick the starters, finishing behind Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I would like to thank the fans, especially those in South Florida, for voting an old guy like me in," O'Neal said. "It is a big honor. Each time I'm selected as an All-Star, it's more special than the year before."

O'Neal, the All-Star Game's co-MVP in 2000 and the MVP in 2004, has averaged 17.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and an assist in the league's midseason showcase.

"Hopefully, I will see a few more as my career moves on," said O'Neal, who missed three All-Star Games because of injury.

The West starters will be Yao, Bryant, Tracy McGrady of the Rockets, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns. Starting alongside O'Neal and James in the East will be O'Neal's Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Jermaine O'Neal of the Indiana Pacers was voted a starter but will not play because of injury. East coach Flip Saunders of the Detroit Pistons will select who will start in place of the Pacers forward.

Though Shaquille O'Neal is averaging career lows in points (19.4), rebounds (9.3) and minutes (29.4), he is still considered to be the most dominant force in the game.

"Kobe, LeBron and Shaq are the big three in the league today," said filmmaker Spike Lee, an avid NBA fan. "I know people are down on Shaq, but I'm not ready to write him off yet. He's still 'Shaq Diesel.' "

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