- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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MIAMI -- What kind of gift do you get for a four-time league MVP and two-time NBA champion who happens to be one of the wealthiest athletes in the world?
Apparently, an opportunity to act out video-game fantasies by shooting live, military-style firearms.
That’s what Miami Heat star LeBron James experienced in the wake of his 29th birthday when wife Savannah James secured the couple a reservation at a high-end Miami shooting range after the team returned from its recent West Coast road trip.
Mike Pryor, general manager of Lock & Load Miami Machine Gun Experience & Range, confirmed to ESPN.com on Monday that James and his wife visited the location last Tuesday. Video of James firing multiple rounds at a target in the indoor facility surfaced on the Internet on Monday and went viral.
“They made a reservation, they showed up and they had a good time just like anyone else,” Pryor said Monday. “We’re all Heat fans here, so it was fun to see somebody like him come in. He’s a decent guy. He was super-gracious to everybody here, from our employees to some of the clientele that was here.”
The Heat did not practice Monday after Sunday’s home win against the Toronto Raptors, and James was unavailable for comment. James is typically active on his social media accounts, frequently posting photos and messages to millions of his followers about his ventures on and off the court. But James was quiet about his New Year’s Eve trip to the gun range located about 10 blocks from the Heat’s arena.
James is known to be an avid video-game player and routinely posts messages on his accounts about his preference for sports and military-style video games. Pryor said he was not sure if the video footage of James shooting in the gallery was recorded and posted by someone who was with the Heat star or by someone else at the range that day.
But James is shown wearing a light-colored baseball cap and gray shirt as he holds and fires several rounds into a distant target. Pryor confirmed the guns both James and his wife tested were an H&K MP5 and an M249, which are both used in military combat. The couple received brief training from the range’s staff that includes former military personnel and retired police officers, Pryor said.
The Jameses left without signing up for a membership.
“He had a chance to work with some of our specialists,” Pryor said. “We’ll talk with them about different firearm options and go over safety measures. He was into it and had a great time. It was good for him and it was good fun for us. We also have a great deal of respect for him and his privacy. He didn’t come here for a media event. They both came here to have a good time.”
Pryor said the range opened in August and has occasionally hosted professional athletes and celebrities but none as visible as the 6-foot-8 James, who was recognized immediately when he entered the facility. That level of visibility isn’t always the case with James, who was carded last weekend at the bar of the team’s downtown Orlando hotel the night before the Heat played the Magic.
Pryor wouldn’t be surprised to see James return.
“It’s possible, but we just don’t make a spectacle of it,” Pryor said. “We’re almost like a restaurant. We want them to experience what they came to experience without having to deal with a lot of hassle. We’re in Miami, right in the entertainment district. So we kind of expect things like this.”
13hMatt Walks, ESPN.com