The Minnesota Timberwolves hosted over 100 active duty military members and veterans at practice Tuesday morning to thank them for their service.
Those present were treated to a brunch on the skyway level at the Mayo Clinic Square, a photo session with players, Crunch and the Timberwolves Dancers. But the highlight of the event for many undoubtably was playing a shooting-game with the Timberwolves players.
"Definitely playing knockout (also known as lightning) with the guys," Petty Officer John Clarke, a first class Boatswain of the United States Coast Guard said. "Just giving high-fives to Karl-Anthony Towns, like are you kidding me? That's crazy."
Military members were also granted the rare opportunity to watch part of the Wolves practice.
"What you guys do for us we really appreciate, it doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated," Wolves coach Sam Mitchell told the group. "I know sometimes it can feel that way, but we think about it everyday. Every time before a game when they play our National Anthem, our guys take pride in that, because we know that freedom is not free and it costs a lot."
The event comes as some in professional sports have faced criticism for what's become known as "paid patriotism" – when a professional sports team accepts money for promoting the armed services or veterans tributes.
That really hasn't been the case with the Timberwolves, while the franchise was mentioned in a congressional report prepared by Sen. John McCain, noting they received $27,000 in 2014 for an event at a Lynx game.
The franchise responded that it does not currently have a paid sponsorship deal with any military branches. "We do many military tributes but do not charge money for those occasions," the team said.