“We got the best fans in the NBA, we’ve got the best team in the NBA,” said Shawn Martinez walking alongside the court inside the Footprint Center.
Shawn gets to see it up close and personal every night. A front seat to all the action as Senior Director of Live Presentation for the Phoenix Suns.
“I’m the conductor — just kidding,” said Shawn, jokingly.
But he kind of is.
The local kid from the Navajo Nation takes on the nightly task of setting up the incredible atmosphere that defines Suns basketball.
“From the entertainers to the music, to what’s happening on the boards, what’s happening on the center hang scoreboard, we just try and amplify what’s happening in the building,” said Shawn. “I really couldn’t do my job with my amazing team though either. They help make the magic come to life."
If you’ve ever joined in on a chant or slow clap, cheered on the gorilla as he fired shirts into the stands, or stood in awe of the half-time performance, you’ve seen his work. All of it was planned out and crafted down to the minute by Shawn. For him, the game of basketball has always been a big part of his life. A star point guard at Window Rock High School with NBA dreams.
“Growing up on the reservation, you have your little sock, you build your little basketball hoop out of shoeboxes, you’re shooting, dreaming of Paul Westphal, Alvan Adams, like man those are my guys,” said Shawn.
While he didn’t make it to the NBA through his play, his other talents for putting on a great show as a DJ eventually lead him to the promised land, even providing him a chance to meet his on-court heroes.
“Guess who was on the court last game? We had Alvan Adams down there, I said, 'Alvan gimme the ball, let me post you up one time.' In my lifetime I posted up Alvan Adams,” said Shawn, showing me the picture.
As his success grows, he makes sure not to forget where he came from, speaking to students on the reservation and imploring them to reach for their dreams.
“I always tell them, if there’s an obstacle, find a way around it because there is a way around it, don’t let it stop you because I’m a true example of that,” said Shawn.
His work is getting notice from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, too. They're now working together for a potential off-season treat for the Navajo fans.
“Now the young people look up to him for inspiration and we’re so proud of him and we’re looking at even bringing, possibly through Shawn, the Phoenix Suns up to the Navajo Nation,” said President Nez.
Shawn’s indigenous roots helped grow him into the man he is today. It’s a culture and tradition he continues to honor through themed game nights and Native American-inspired Suns jerseys.
Right now, he is sharing his passion on the biggest stage of them all as our Valley boys make another run towards a championship.