Welcome to our latest section called UpstreamLives where we will feature the testimonies of people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and how the Word of God has changed their personal and professional lives completely. For the maiden issue, we will feature Jayjay Helterbrand, one of the most accomplished players in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) today. Consider these feats: 2004-2005 Comeback Player of the Year, 2006-2007 Philippine Cup Finals Most Valuable Player, 2008 & 2009 Fiesta Conference Best Player of the Conference, 2008-2009 Most Valuable Player (MVP), played seven times at the PBA All-Star games, to name a few. But beyond winning, what is truly in the heart of Jayjay? Here’s what he shared with us…
How would you describe your life growing up in the States?
Well, growing up there, we had a broken family. I’m the youngest of 3 siblings. My brother and sister moved out quite early. You know, when you’re 18 in the States, you can start living life on your own. I basically grew up like an only child. But in that way I learned a lot of things on my own. But when I was younger my mom was there. She taught me a lot of things. I never had a father figure but I never thought that I missed out a lot because of my mom. But that was how things were for me back then.
How did your love for basketball start?
When I first saw Michael Jordan play with the Chicago Bulls. I became a fan automatically. I started imitating his moves during street balls. My love for the game grew more as I played, and I realized, this is what I want to do when I grow up. When my teachers would ask me what I want to be when I grow up, all I can think of as an answer was I want to be a basketball player.
When did you start playing serious basketball?
Actually I stated quite late. I was 16 years old already. I never played in the intramural and the likes. When I first played, I didn’t even know the rules. I was wearing a watch when I first stepped on the court (laughs). I didn’t know there were time limits on the foul line… I thought you just play just to shoot the ball.
I hope you didn’t shoot the ball on the other team’s basket?
(laughs) No, I did not. But they stopped the game when they saw I had a watch on.
What made you decide to play basketball here in the Philippines?
Actually, to be honest, my first goal was to play in the NBA. That was my ultimate goal. But early on, a lot of people told me I can never make it as a professional basketball player. You see in high school I was too short, around 5”7. It was only in college when I grew this tall. But I believed in myself. I worked really, really hard. Well, I didn’t make it to the NBA, but I made it to the PBA… the next best thing.
How did you end up playing in the PBA?
I played in a tournament in Chicago, all Fil-Ams, and my agent before asked me if I was interested in playing in the PBA. I didn’t know anything about the PBA that time, but I said if he sends me tickets, I’ll go. The next thing I knew someone called me saying I have a round-trip ticket to the Philippines for a try-outs. I gave it a try, and I’ve been here ever since.
Ginebra is the only team you have played for, right?
First and hopefully, the only team (laughs)
You’ve been playing in the PBA for 11 years?
Almost 12 years. I started out in year 2000.
When you started playing, Bal David was the star point guard. When was your breakout year?
I think it was 2004. Bal David got injured, and my coach was forced to have me play more minutes and fortunately, I exceeded all his expectations. I was able to play the starting position since then.
Together with Mark Caguioa.
Yeah. They called us “The fast and the furious”.
You got injured in 2005 and made a remarkable run that same year. Tell us about it.
Yes, I broke a bone on my leg when a player’s knee landed on it. At first I thought it was just a contusion. I played it on the next game. I went up for a jump shot and when I landed, I heard a snap. I couldn’t move. I was sidelined for about six months. And when I came back… I think due to the long rest, I missed the game so much so I worked real hard to come back and God blessed me with my first MVP trophy that year.
Please tell us, in your own experience, how does one achieve the kind of success you enjoy?
Before, I used to think that it was all though hard work. But now I realized it’s only part of it. It is truly more of a blessing than anything else. You know, God can choose anyone to be successful. And I am glad God chose me to be part of it. But If you asked me the same question before, I would have said it was all me… my hard work and my dedication.
So you realized that God had something to do with it.
Yes, and this was later, a lot later in my career (laughs).
Let’s talk about the real you — JayJay the Christian. How did you come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Whom did the Lord use for it to happen?
Actually, it was her (pointing to her daughter). She was 11 years old at that time. I received a phone call from the State at about 1:00 am that she went into a seizure, was brought to the hospital and was not breathing. She slipped into a coma. The doctors can’t tell what caused it. She was in a coma for 9 hours and the doctors basically told me to prepare for the worst. I really broke down. I fell on my knees and prayed… and prayed that if the Lord would spare my daughter’s life, then I would give my life to Him in return; and that I will do those things that would please Him. She woke up after an hour. The doctors couldn’t believe it! She was a little dazed, but she was fine, like nothing happened. It was nothing that the doctors did. It was an answered prayer from above. The first that came to my mind was, I have to keep my end of the bargain. Some people say it was the medication, it was just timing, but I know God worked.
How did you become a member of Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF)?
Well, I first saw GCF while I was walking around Galleria on a Sunday in 2002. I thought at first it was a museum (laughs). I went inside and attended the service, but that was it. So when my daughter got healed, I went back to GCF. This happened just last year, June 11, 2011.
Yours is a different story. For most people, a Christian comes over and explains the gospel of salvation.
Actually, coach Johnny Abarientos has shared the gospel to me a few times, and you know, I let it enter one ear and out the other. I paid no attention to it because my motto was I would live my life the way I want to. It was my life and I will do what I think is best.
So God started with Johnny, but since you wouldn’t listen, He made you listen.
Exactly! I believe that illness happened to my daughter because He knew that was the best way He could get my attention.
Please share with our readers, what’s the difference of life then, popular and all but without Christ and today as a Christian?
Oh, there are so many changes. For instance, I read the Bible regularly, I attend GCF regularly, we have a regular Bible Study here, I don’t drink anymore…
How about on the basketball court?
Oh, I’m not that hostile anymore (laughs). Before, when it comes to competition, I’m very emotional. I’m so competitive, I lose my manners. Now, I don’t go after referees or players anymore. I don’t verbally abuse the refs anymore. And of course, I realized that basketball is not everything. Before, it was my life. Today, I still love the game, but it has become a means to share the gospel. That is why I wear the TGN shirt (The Good News Shirt). Because so many people watch the games and so through the TGN shirt, I can influence people to (even for a moment) think about the Word of God. It also helps me get a good conversation started. I have received feedbacks that I somehow inspired people to start reading the Bible again, go back to church again.
How do you respond to winning and losing then and now?
Oh, total opposites. Before, if our team lost, it would affect everything. I would be very hard to talk to, I’d go home in a bad mood, I would get mad at my daughter for no good reasons (laughs). Everything that happens off the court gets affected. I hate losing before and I still do. But it doesn’t bother me as much as it did before. If it is not God’s will that we win, I accept His will.
Before, where do you go after losing a game badly?
Oh, I’d go to a bar somewhere, drown my sorrows away. And it didn’t go away… it only grew worse. I gamble to take my mind off my problems. I played poker a lot and wasted money in the process.
How do you see yourself down the road when your basketball career is through?
You know what? This is what I have learned. I have stopped making plans for myself. All the plans I’ve made for myself never works out. So I now pray to the Lord, even in terms of my basketball career if He would still want me to continue. And it has become clear that His purpose for me is to continue to play and glorify Him in the way I play.
So before you make plans, but now, you’re living one day at a time.
Yes, yes…. I now wait for His plans for me.
UpstreamLife readers are mostly single professionals. Any message you would want to share to them?
Ok, well, whether it’s in your work or family life, your hobby, etc… my message is to put God in the center of it if you want to succeed.
If our readers want to know more about the TGN shirts, where do they go?
They can visit www.facebook.com/Shirtthegoodnews
Thank you JayJay for your time.
Welcome and thanks too.
How about you? Would you like Jesus Christ to come into your life as your personal Lord and Savior and change your life completely like He did for Jayjay? Let us know by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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