By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
Icelandic trail blazer Petur Gudmundsson joined the podcast to discuss whether he was the first true international player in the NBA, tell stories from his unique career arch and talk about his time with the Showtime Lakers, Trail Blazers and Spurs.
Topics discussed in the podcast:
01:05 – How Petur first played handball in Iceland where basketball wasn’t popular, him turning to basketball only later, playing for the U-18 team at the age of 15 and being noticed by University of Washington’s coach Marv Harshman;
04:55 – Coach Harshman conducting a coaching clinic in Iceland just because he was an avid fly fisherman, him recruiting Europeans like Lars Hansen, Chris Welp and Detlef Schrempf;
06:55 – Petur watching NBA highlights in Iceland while growing up, receiving letters from 150 colleges when playing for Mercer Island High School;
11:35 – His confidence growing during his sophomore year at the University of Washington, becoming a starter, scoring 17 in U of W’s victory against the number one ranked UCLA team;
14:00 – An illness setting Petur back during his junior year, his academics sliding and him moving on to play for River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina, learning Spanish there, playing with teammates such as Stew Johnson;
18:35 – Being noticed by Detroit Pistons GM Jack McCloskey in Iceland – Finland friendlies, expecting to be drafted by Detroit, the Portland Trail Blazers unexpectedly scooping him up in the third round, proving himself and making the team for the 1981-82 season;
23:45 – Petur being the first international player in the NBA who actually took up the game and grew up in his own homeland, no one really acknowledging that in the USA, talks about European players becoming louder later on, the coverage Icelandic media had of Petur;
30:50 – The negative beliefs that existed in the USA about European players being soft, Petur being like Vlade Divac and Arvydas Sabonis in regards to playing looser than Americans, having the ability to pass as bigs and having a more outside game;
34:10 – Playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, the team being the hot ticket in the city, Petur struggling to fit in a bit on a guard-oriented team, keeping in touch with Jim Paxson, Jeff Lamp and Pete Verhoeven;
37:50 – Being suspended by the Blazers in the fall of 1982 due to a misunderstanding, NBA teams looking for him, yet not being able to contact him while Petur was playing in Iceland, getting cut by the Detroit Pistons before the 1983-84 season;
43:10 – Attending the Clippers summer camp in 1984, playing in England during the 1984-85 season, giving the NBA one more shot via the CBA, having work permit and playing time issues there, being ready to return to Iceland after the season, Kansas City Sizzlers’ coach Bill Ficke recommending him to the Lakers who were looking for a replacement for the injured Mitch Kupchak;
48:40 – The great experience of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, Bill Bertka helping Petur with extra workouts, his first opportunity coming in an impressive effort against Artis Gilmore and the Spurs, discussing Icelandic culture with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hollywood celebrities being in awe over the Lakers, how hard the Lakers practices were in comparison to the games;
56:20 – Surgery for a herniated disk forcing Petur to miss the 1986-87 season, his time with the San Antonio Spurs being his numerically best, yet him not feeling like it was the best basketball he played;
1:00:25 – Petur’s favorite performances and memories from his time in the NBA, the previously mentioned Lakers debut against the Spurs, getting to play against Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem, Moses Malone being the most aggravating player to face, how unique Dan Issel was back then thanks to his outside touch;
1:05:15 – Tearing his meniscus twice in the 1988-89 season, injuries cutting his career short, anticipating to play for Larry Brown;
1:08:05 – Life after basketball, not applying himself in college when playing basketball, his victories like earning a Master’s degree in Business Administration.
The media related to the podcast:
Notable snippets of the interview:
Thanks to Petur for coming on the podcast and sharing so many insightful stories from his career!