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The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
Directed by Gilbert Moses
Produced by David Dashev
Don Phillips
Gary Stromberg
Written by David Dashev (story)
Gary Stromberg (story)
Jaison Starkes
Edmond Stevens
Starring Julius Erving
Jonathan Winters
Meadowlark Lemon
Stockard Channing
James Bond III
Distributed by Theatrical:
United Artists
Current Owner:
Warner Bros.
Release date(s) November 6, 1979
Running time 102 min.
Country United States
Language English

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is an American sports/fantasy comedy film that was released in 1979. The movie was directed by Gilbert Moses and co-produced by David Dashev and Gary Stromberg. It was produced by Lorimar and distributed by United Artists. The rights to the film are currently owned by Warner Bros. through its 1989 acquisition of Lorimar.

It was filmed on location in Pittsburgh and suburban Moon Township, Pennsylvania.

The movie has attracted an unlikely cult following to this day, most notably for its disco-inspired decor/setting and soundtrack that was infused into the film, as well as the appearances of many NBA stars (including lead actor Julius Erving) and the rising careers of Debbie Allen and Harry Shearer.



The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh tells the story of a struggling professional basketball team, The Pittsburgh Pythons, whose continuous losing streak and lack of talent has made them the laughing stock of Pittsburgh. This results in several players asking to go elsewhere in the league, except for the star player Moses Guthrie (Julius Erving), mostly because he is the highest paid player on the team and is not liked by the teammates.

Sensing that the team really needs a miracle, the team's ball and waterboy Tyrone Millman (James Bond III) decides to turn to his favorite hobby, astrology, as a way to turn around the team's fortunes. He brings his idea to an astrologer named Mona Mondieu (Stockard Channing), and they come up with the perfect concept: A team composed of players who were born under the astrological sign of Pisces (matching the star sign of Moses Guthrie), thus the 'birth' of "The Pittsburgh Pisces!"

Although Moses and Tyrone's sister Toby (Margaret Avery) (for whom Moses had feelings) thinks that Tyrone's idea means he out of his mind, they warm up to the concept, not knowing that this 'concept' would really take off due to an unlikely group of mismatched players, whose combination of teamwork and astrology from Mona would pay off as they went from laughingstocks to a powerhouse to reckon with on the road to the league championship.

Production notes

  • Singer/actress Cher was originally cast as Mona Mondieu, but she backed out at the last minute.


  • During the scene where the timeout took place, the Pisces were trailing Los Angeles 91-101, but when the game resumed the Pisces made ten field goals, which means that they should have won the championship with a double-digit lead.
  • When the Pisces team made their entrance to the championship game from a hot-air balloon, you can see that the "audience" only appeared on one side of the gymnasium.

NBA related connections

  • Although the movie did not license NBA logos, several players did appear in the film playing for fictional teams with the same location and colors as their real NBA teams.
  • At the time of filming, Erving was a member of Pennsylvania's real life NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Several years later in 1982, in a case of life imitating art, he was joined by a real player named Moses (center Moses Malone) and defeated the real Los Angeles Lakers (also with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
  • Another generation's Philadelphia sports star, Donovan McNabb lists the movie as his favorite in his official team website biography
  • The movie clearly used footage from a Washington Bullets basketball game, including audience shots and outdoor scenes of the Capital Centre (the arena where the Bullets played).

Pittsburgh connections

  • The call letters of WTAE, KQV and WDVE are mentioned in the film.
  • WTAE, which served as the 'fictional' TV station in the film, featured a Sports anchor named "Murray Sports," who was inspired by WTAE's then-real-life sports anchor Myron Cope.
  • Connie Hawkins, who plays himself as member of the Los Angeles team, was an alumnus of the defunct Pittsburgh Pipers of American Basketball Association. The Pipers renamed themselves the Pittsburgh Condors in 1970, a year before Erving joined was drafted into the ABA. By 1972 the Condors ceased operations.
  • The Moon Area High School gymnasium is used in filming and the name of the school can also be seen in the film.



As themselves

Basketball teams

Los Angeles:

New York:



See also

External links


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