The King and his collector

Migs Bustos

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Meet the man who is most likely the Philippines' biggest LeBron James fan

You say you’re a LeBron James fan? Well, meet EJ Sabandal, who likely has you beat. 

Sabandal has one of the biggest collections of all things LeBron James in the Philippines, something his fellow NBA aficionados can vouch for. From cards, to toys, to publications (everything except shoes, because says he’d rather his sons have that collection), if it’s related to “The King,” Sabandal has it. 

EJ started collecting LeBron memorabilia back in 2003, when James first entered the NBA. Admittedly, he was once a Michael Jordan fan, but Sabandal quickly went from game-worn material and autographed cards to all things LeBron. 

“Siguro nung kinaya ko nang maghobby ng ganun, lumalim na yung interes ko sa pagcollect. Si LeBron kasi nung 2003 ako nagstart, naging hype siya nung NBA. Before kasi nung time ni Jordan, bata pa ako nun, napapanood ko lang mga highlights sa VHS. Ngayon si LeBron ang cinollect ko kasi active pa siya, nandun yung excitement ng pagcollect kasi tumataas yung value,” says EJ.

And why not? Currently in his eighth NBA Finals, James’ latest season had many earnestly debating whether or not he could equal, or even surpass Jordan in the GOAT conversation. Given his iron man resiliency of having never missed a lot of time due to injury, expect James to keep compiling stats, and possibly one or two more rings, just like how the value of EJ’s collection will continue to go north as well.

Here’s a virtual tour of his beloved LeBron cave:

At the fourth floor of EJ’s home lies his ‘LeBron Kingdom’

It’s like a mini-museum when one enters

A life-sized standee of LeBron welcomes you inside. 

His number one collection, EJ says these cards are part of his ‘hall of fame’, and he plans to hang them on a wall soon.

EJ’s collection of cards. All minted and locked up.

Besides cards, toys are also EJ’s favorite

More of EJ’s collection, with autographed memorabilia.

Yup, his wife Michelle, children Red, Blue, and Gray are all part of the LeBron gang too. 

“Swerte ko dahil very supportive wife ko. Yung sa mga anak, nakita nila na iniidolize ng daddy nila, convinced naman sila. Ang kagandahan din kasi kay LeBron yung pinapakita nya off the court, yung pagiging family man niya. Nagiging good example din siya, sakin din in a way naiinspire ka dun sa ginagawa nya.”

With EJ’s collection, it’s no easy ride. Sometimes, you win some, you lose some too. (or you can win it back again)

“Naniniwala ako na para sakin, para sakin. Example nyan is meron akong gusting bilhin na card noon, dual autograph ni LeBron and Michael Jordan, may nagpost sa facebook at kinausap ko siya. Ok na yung deal, pero after an hour hindi sumasagot sakin at sabi nya nabenta na niya daw. Nalungkot ako syempre. Pero after two years, kinontact ako ng asawa na binebenta nga daw niya, mas mura pa. So siguro dun ko napatunayan na para sakin talaga yun.”

EJ’s message to collectors, young or old, new or current: 

“Para sa mga young collectors, yung passion lang dapat nandyan. Mahirap din kasi yung pabago bago ng kinocollect, pwede naman on the side pero mas maganda kung meron kang main collection. Kung gusto mo yung player na yun, dapat yung support mo nasa kanya all throughout ng career nya.” 

Watch EJ’s story tonight on Bandila, after Tonight with Boy Abunda.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports.

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