“We have the best fans in the NBA, we have the best team in the NBA,” Shawn Martinez said as he walked along the court inside the Footprint Center.
Shawn can 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,” Shawn quipped.
But he kind of is.
The local Navajo Nation kid takes on the nightly task of setting up the incredible atmosphere that defines Suns basketball.
“From the artists to the music, to what’s happening on the panels, what’s happening on the central dashboard, we’re just trying to amplify what’s happening in the building,” Shawn said. “I really couldn’t do my job with my amazing team either. They help bring the magic to life.”
If you’ve ever participated in a slow chant or applause, cheered on the gorilla as he tossed shirts into the stands, or impressed with the performance at halftime, you’ve seen his work. All of this was planned and crafted to the minute by Shawn. For him, basketball has always occupied a big place in his life. A star point guard at Window Rock High School with NBA dreams.
“Growing up on the reserve, you have your little sock, you build your little basketball hoop out of shoeboxes, you shoot, you dream of Paul Westphal, Alvan Adams, like man, they’re my guys,” Shawn said. .
Although he didn’t make it to the NBA through his game, his other talents for putting on a big show as a DJ eventually led him to the promised land, even giving him a chance to meet his heroes on the court. .
“Guess who was on the pitch last game? We had Alvan Adams there, I said, ‘Alvan give me the ball, let me post you once.’ In my lifetime I’ve posted Alvan Adams,” Shawn said, showing me the photo.
As his success grows, he makes sure he doesn’t forget where he came from, addressing the students on the reservation and imploring them to achieve their dreams.
“I always tell them, if there’s an obstacle, find a way around it because there’s a way around it, don’t let it stop you because I’m a real example of that,” Shawn said.
His work is also noticed by the President of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez. They are now working together for a potential off-season treat for Navajo fans.
“Now young people look to him for inspiration and we’re so proud of him and even considering bringing, maybe through Shawn, the Phoenix Suns to the Navajo Nation,” said President Nose.
Shawn’s Indigenous roots helped make him the man he is today. It’s a culture and tradition that he continues to honor through themed game nights and Native American-inspired Suns jerseys.
Right now he’s sharing his passion on the biggest stage of them all as our valley boys race for another championship.