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This is a short story about surgeons, Shanghai, and a guy named Sean. It is just one example of the kind of activity that goes on at the US Airways Center and the kind of people that are lucky enough to call it their workplace.

The Suns have long been one of the most popular franchises in the NBA but, their reputation extends well beyond the league’s geographic territory. When Wang Hong Zhe and Chen You – two surgeons in town for a convention at ASU – found out they’d be staying just minutes away from the Suns home court, they made it a priority to visit Planet Orange.

When they entered the Casino Arizona Pavilion with professional grade digital cameras they caught the attention of photography-buff Harvey Shank, the Suns Senior Executive Vice President. Although Harvey pointed out, “Their English was much better than my Mandarin,” he struggled with the language barrier until Shelli Tharrett – a member of the SixthMan Experience team – told him about her coworker Sean Bafan.

As part of the SixthMan team, Sean deals directly with Suns season ticket holders, but he also has a hidden talent – he’s a native Mandarin speaker. Sean’s mother is Chinese and he picked up the language at an early age with his grandparents in the house. He’s been able to exercise his use of the language on visits to Hong Kong and – surprisingly enough – in random encounters like the one in this story.

Sean immediately eliminated the language barrier and took the opportunity to show the travelers around the center and talk to them about the Suns, the NBA and life back in China.

That is just one example of the environment of the US Airways Center. A random encounter based on a shared passion put hidden talents on display and created a connection that bridged across continents. And it all starts with taking an interest in everyone who walks through the door. I’m sure Suns fans out there have similar stories and I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Before Wang Hong Zhe and Chen You left they promised that if Sean or Harvey ever made it to Shanghai, they’d be waiting to show them the same hospitality. I think Sean just may take them up on it.

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