When Helterbrand lost his rookie basketball card, a good samaritan came to the rescue

Apr 26, 2021

JUST this afternoon, Jayjay Helterbrand sent out a call for help on social media.

“What's up guys,” he wrote on Instagram. “I'm looking for my [U]pper [D]eck rookie card! I lost the one I had given to me and I need another one.”

Coming into the PBA as a direct hire from the MBA, Helterbrand was included in the 87-strong set of PBA basketball cards printed by noted sports card company Upper Deck for the 2001-2002 season — the only time a foreign brand released official sports cards for the local league.

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The front of the card shows the future six-time PBA champ with a high-flying pose.

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The back of the card says: “2000 - First Season in the PBA. The Ginebra newcomer with the very foreign name is a true-blue Filipino, having been born in the Philippines before assuming the surname of the couple which adopted him. Jayjay’s helter-skelter brand of play has earned him coach Allan Caidic’s nod as chief point guard reliever.”

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One hour after Helterbrand sent out his call for help, a collector named EJ Sabandal dropped a comment on his post.

“I have one!” commented Sabandal under his IG username of @firedragon23. “Bigay ko sayo.”

In an interview with SPIN Life, Sabandal said that he has been a Ginebra fan since his grade school days. Most known for his very extensive LeBron James collection of memorabilia, which he started way back in 2003, Sabandal also became interested in the Upper Deck PBA cards a few years ago.

“Nung nalaman kong merong lumabas na first and only Upper Deck licensed na PBA cards, nagkaroon ako ng opportunity na makabili ng isang box,” he explained.

Picking it up from Greenhills, Sabandal found he’d struck gold. Included in that box was a signed version of an Alvin Patrimonio card. He kept buying several more boxes over the years, eager to complete the 29 signed cards in the set.

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    Despite the numerous PBA Upper Deck cards he’d picked up over the years, Sabandal only had one copy of Helterbrand’s card. But when a friend alerted him about Jayjay's plight, he didn’t hesitate to get in touch with the retired PBA player and offer it to him for free.

    “Ang bentahan ng Jayjay Helterbrand card is P3,000. So mahal din pala. Pero idol mo yan e, tapos natulungan mo siya sa collection niya, sa mismong card niya. Sa akin, malaking bagay na yan," related Sabandal.

    He added: "Sabi niya sa akin, ‘Paano ba ako makakabawi sa ‘yo?’ Sabi ko, di mo kailangan bumawi. Bawing-bawi ka na nung ginagalingan mo yung laro mo nung time mo. Para sa akin, happy na ako na natulungan ko siya.”

    One quick chat and a Lalamove delivery later, and the card was on its way to Helterbrand.

    The retired PBA star later posted an effusive video thanking Sabandal for bringing him the card.

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    “Thanks so much for responding to my message on Instagram,” said the long-time Ginebra vet. “You sent out my 2000 rookie Upper Deck card, man. This is so dope. Bro, I appreciate it, thank you, God bless, and stay safe.”

    In the caption accompanying the video, Helterbrand said that the card has “a lot of sentimental value” for him. “Imagine having your own Upper Deck card!” he enthused.

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    And now, he's got one again.

    Sabandal told SPIN Life, "Sabi niya, gusto niyang mag-collect uli. Kasi meron siyang collection ng NBA cards. E parang, ewan ko, nabenta, o na-dispose ng grandfather niya. So parang gusto niyang bumalik sa hobby."

    The collector, of course, is willing to give whatever advice Jayjay needs.

    "Sabi niya, perfect timing ang pagkakakuha niya ng rookie card niya, para good to start yung pagkokolekta."

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