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Charity event at All-Star weekend crossed paths between Bradley Beal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Charity event at All-Star weekend crossed paths between Bradley Beal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

CHARLOTTE -- Wizards guard Bradley Beal was packing boxes with canned goods on Friday at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina in Charlotte, North Carolina when one of the greatest players in basketball history ducked through the door and made his way down the warehouse aisles, shaking hands and taking pictures. 

Beal is an NBA All-Star and was one of the headliners of an All-Star weekend charity event. And he had found himself in the presence of a legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. As Abdul-Jabbar passed Beal's table, the Wizards guard imitated his famous sky-hook with a big smile on his face.

Beal, 25, is carving out a standout career for the Washington Wizards. He is also continuing to grow off the court with various charitable efforts and an affinity for giving back.

Abdul-Jabbar has set the standard in both realms. He won six NBA championships, made 19 All-Star teams and is widely considered among the very best athletes of all-time. He is also a longtime philanthropist with an admirable history of using his platform to help others.

Abdul-Jabbar was there to greet citizens of Charlotte and also promote his Skyhook Foundation and its involvement with Goldin Auctions. He is auctioning off many pieces of memorabilia from his playing career, including NBA championship rings and most valuable player award trophies.

Abdul-Jabbar is raising money to help elementary school kids in the Los Angeles area go to camps to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"STEM is where all the good jobs are going to be in the 21st century," Abdul-Jabbar said. "We want to get to them before peer pressure and popular culture get them to thinking that; so many think that they have to be Beyonce [Knowles] or Denzel [Washington] or LeBron [James] to be successful. We're trying to show them that 'hey, if you pay attention in math class or science class, you can be an engineer.'"

Abdul-Jabbar took notice of Beal and his efforts in Charlotte. He was proud to see a young NBA star giving back.

"I just had the opportunity to talk to him. He seems like a classy young man," Abdul-Jabbar told NBC Sports Washington. "Certainly, you look at his stats, he's taking care of business on the court."

Abdul-Jabbar believes the NBA is in good hands with Beal's generation. He cited James' opening of a school in Akron, Ohio and how today's stars use their large contracts and platforms to make a difference in their communities. 

"I'm really happy to see what's going on. So many of them, they care about what's happening back home. They go out of their way to make sure that they do something with what they've been blessed with. I've got a lot of respect for them and it's something I'm really happy to see," Abdul-Jabbar said.

Beal had a few options for events to attend at All-Star weekend and chose the Second Harvest Food Bank. He spent hours putting together food packages for families in poverty and interacting with local volunteers. 

Beal said he would have stayed longer if he had the choice.

"I don't get tired of helping people. I could literally stand here all day," he said. "If I didn't have other events, I would be here all day, no matter how many boxes we have to stack up, until there is no more food left to put into the boxes."

Beal was grateful to do his part in helping those who don't have homes or food, especially during the cold winter. And he was proud to help out alongside Abdul-Jabbar, who has set a high bar for he and other NBA players off the court.

"It's humbling, man," Beal said. "That's just motivation for me and a lot of people to just constantly do what is right and do what it takes to help other people."

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WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

The Washington Mystics and Elena Delle Donne finally get to play in the WNBA Playoffs after a week off due to a double-bye from winning the No. 1 seed. 

The Mystics will play the No. 4 seeded Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET. It begins a best-of-five series between two of the best teams in the WNBA this season. 

Midway through the year, the Aces were arguably the best team in the league. They were trading turns with the Mystics and the Connecticut Sun sitting atop the WNBA Standings. Led by MVP candidate Liz Cambage, one of the most dominating centers in the league, the Aces were squarely in the running for one of the top seeds and a double-bye.

Then they went cold, finished the season 2-4 and witnessed the Mystics and Sun continued success.

The Aces, honestly, should probably not be here after the incredible end-of-game sequence from the previous round. Dearica Hamby's steal and desperation shot are the only things that have the Aces here and not the Chicago Sky.

Much of the dominance from Cambage and A'ja Wilson has dissipated over the past several weeks. Still, they bring in one of the strongest defensive units in the league to try and slow down the most potent's in WNBA history. In the regular season, the Aces held opponents to a WNBA-best 43.5% from the field and the second-best from 3-point range (32.1%). 

Washington won the regular-season series against Las Vegas 2-1. Yet in the process, one game was postponed at halftime by an earthquake and another game delayed because of clock failures. The only game the Aces won was the one that Delle Donne missed. 

Washington finished the regular season with a franchise-best 26 wins. They set the WNBA record for made 3-pointers on the season (9.3 per game) and in a game (18), and fewest turnovers (11.3 per game) among a few.

While the Mystics have a much-needed eight days off before they play the Aces, one also has to be concerned if it was too much time off. They will have more time to recover in a series as opposed to the winner-take-all first and second rounds. However, there is not much wiggle room in a five-game series predicated on homefield advantage.

ACES VS. MYSTICS GAME 1:

Who: Las Vegas Aces at Washington Mystics

What: WNBA Semifinals Game 1

When: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C.

TV Channel: ESPN2

Live Stream: WatchESPN

MYSTICS vs. ACES WNBA SEMIFINALS SCHEDULE:

Game 1: Tue, Sept. 17: Aces at Mystics, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 2: Thurs, Sept. 19: Aces at Mystics, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 3: Sun, Sept. 22: Mystics at Aces, 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 4: Tue, Sept 24: Mystics at Aces, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

Game 5: Thurs, Sept. 26: Aces at Mystics, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

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Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon now? Here's what you need to know

Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon now? Here's what you need to know

The Washington Mystics are set to kick off their playoff run on Tuesday night at 8:30 pm against the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Semifinals. You may have followed the entire journey to this point, or you may just joining in on the fun, hoping to hitch a ride on the bandwagon of a great team.

If you are in that second group, you're in luck. Here is what you need to know about the 2019 Mystics as they gear up for the postseason...

They are historically good: The 26-8 Mystics weren't just the best team in the league this season by their record, they were dominant to a degree rarely seen in the WNBA. Washington scored the most points per game (89.3), had the most assists (21.9), the fewest turnovers (11.8) and the highest field goal percentage (46.9). 

The Mystics had the best offensive rating (112.9) with an 11.3-point edge over the second-best team, the Chicago Sky. With the sixth-best defensive rating, the Mystics' 14.8 net rating was 10.7 points better than the next-best team, the Las Vegas Aces. 

Washington's offensive rating is the best ever, ahead of the 2000 Houston Comets who were at 109.1. Their 53.6 effective field goal percentage is also an all-time best. Basically, no one has ever scored as efficiently as this year's Mystics.

Delle Donne could be MVP: Mystics star Elene Delle Donne may take home her second WNBA MVP award. She had another monster season with 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while posting the first 50-40-90 season in WNBA history. She shot 51.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 97.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Delle Donne is also healthy this time around. Last year, she battled a left knee injury that limited her during the playoffs and contributed to the Mystics demise in the Finals.

They make lots of threes: The three-point shot has never been more important in basketball and the Mystics are better at it than anyone else in the WNBA. They led the league in three-pointers made and attempted, and were second in percentage this season. They hit 36.6 percent, second only to the Aces, on 25.4 attempts. Their 9.3 made threes per game were 1.8 more than the next team, the Connecticut Sun. 

The total numbers are impressive, but so is the Mystics' versatility of perimeter threats. Delle Donne is 6-foot-5, yet she hits her 43 percent on 3.9 attempts per game. Meesseman is a 6-foot-4 center who makes 42.2 percent on two attempts per game.  Then they have Myisha Hines-Allen, Tianna Hawkins, Aerial Powers, Kristi Tolliver and Ariel Atkins, who all shoot 35.7 percent or better from long range. 

Their defense is elite: It isn't just scoring and outside shooting that makes the Mystics great. They also have one of the best defenses with the athleticism and length to frustrate opponents. Washington was fourth in points allowed (77.3), sixth in defensive rating (98.1), fifth in turnovers forced (14.5), eighth in opponent field goal percentage (43) and seventh in opponent three-point percentage (34).

That led to both Atkins and Cloud earning second-team All-Defense this season. LaToya Sanders also drew consideration and, if you ask her teammates, was a glaring snub.

Run it back: The Mystics are on a mission to clear up some unfinished business. Last year, they made it all the way to the WNBA Finals, only to lose to the high-powered Seattle Storm.

The path is there for another deep playoff run, this time perhaps with a different result. 'Run it back' has been a mantra for the team all season. You will see it in hashtags on Twitter. They want to get back to the Finals and take home the first championship in franchise history.

Thibault could get a ring: Head coach Mike Thibault has enjoyed a long and distinguished basketball career that includes two NBA championships as an assistant with the Lakers in the early 1980s. He is the winningest coach in WNBA history.

But Thibault does not have a WNBA championship on his resume, at least not yet. He has lost in the Finals three times including twice during his days with Connecticut. Winning a title would represent a breakthrough for him and would make for a great story of someone finally reaching the mountaintop in their sport.

Toliver has been hurt: The biggest question mark for the Mystics going into the playoffs is the health of All-Star guard Kristi Toliver. She has been sidelined since Aug. 8 with a right knee contusion, an injury that forced her to miss 11 games. According to Thibault, she is "probably" going to play in Game 1 but if she does, she will be on a minutes restriction.

The Mystics closed the season well without her, winning 10 of the 11 games she missed. But Toliver is an important piece as a veteran leader and because of her three-point shooting and passing.

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