It’s essential to be well-familiar with basketball’s intricacies, whether you are a player or a fan. And one of the things you need to have a solid grasp on is basketball game duration.
How long is a basketball game? There is no universal answer because rules differ between leagues and associations. To get the most relevant info, you should check out the rulebook of the association you play under.
Below, I’m going to look at game durations as per FIBA, NBA, NCAA (college), and NFHS (high school) rules. I’ll also slightly touch upon the shot clock and timeouts because these are very important in basketball.
How Long Are NBA Games?
NBA games have four periods, each lasting 12 minutes. Aside from that, NBA rules allow for 5-minute overtime.
On its website, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) provides a neat comparison of FIBA, NBA, and NCAA rules. I’ve taken everything related to basketball game duration and periods from the comparison and plugged them into the table below:
|Playing time||4 x 10 minutes, 5 minutes overtime||4 x 12 minutes, 5 minutes overtime||2 x 20 minutes, 5 minutes overtime|
|Shot clock||24 seconds, or 14 seconds after offensive rebound||24 seconds||35 seconds for men and 30 seconds for women|
|Timeouts*||2 in first half;3 in second half (but only 2 timeouts in last two minutes of the fourth period);1 per overtime;Always lasts 60 seconds;No carryovers||6 regular;2 per overtime period;60 or 100 seconds + short timeout (20 seconds) per half;Second short timeout can be carried over to overtime||4 regular;30 seconds + long 60 seconds;Maximum 3 regular and 1 long timeout in second half|
|Half time||15 minutes||15 minutes||15 minutes|
* NBA figures are outdated
With that, the duration of an NBA match is 48 minutes, plus the 15-minute halftime.
But when it comes to the actual duration of basketball matches, NBA games – and basketball games of any other league – can last much longer due to frequent clock stoppage. The typical NBA game lasts for two and a half hours.
One thing to note with NBA timeouts – as of this post’s writing, FIBA’s comparison table was Outdated. As per 2019-2020 rules, each team is entitled to:
- 7 charged timeouts.
- Up to 4 timeouts in the fourth period.
- Up to 2 timeouts in overtime periods.
The rules have other details regarding timeouts, but I won’t cover them in this post.
Since the 2017-18 season, all NBA timeouts have been 75 seconds in length, replacing the old short and long timeouts.
What Was The Longest NBA Game?
If you wonder what the longest NBA game was, it took place on January 6, 1951, between Indianapolis Olympians and Rochester Royals at Edgerton Park Arena in Rochester, New York.
This match’s game time was 78 minutes, and the game was won by the Olympians 75 to 73. This was a six-overtime game, and it has even been included in the Guinness World Records.
The longest college basketball game in history was slightly shorter, but it’s impressive nonetheless. It occurred on December 21, 1981, between Cincinnati Bearcats and Bradley Braves and was won by Bearcats 75 to 73.
The match ran 75 minutes – a mere 3 minutes behind the historic Olympians vs. Rochester Royals. And interestingly, this basketball game gave birth to another record. Cincinnati guard Bobby Austin and Bradley center Donald Reese each played 73 minutes on the court – a record that stands to this day.
What About College And High-School Basketball Games?
College basketball game is regulated by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and consist of two 20-minute halves. There is a half time of 15 minutes between the halves as well.
High school basketball game is regulated by the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations). High school games have 4 quarters lasting 8 minutes, plus 10 minutes of half time.
How Long Is A Basketball Quarter?
The duration of a basketball quarter depends on the league and association that the game is held under. I’ve had a look at quarter durations earlier, but in case you’ve jumped straight to this section to find answers, here they are:
- FIBA games:10 minutes, with 15-minute half time.
- NBA games: 12 minutes, with 15-minute half time.
- NCAA college games: Two halves of 20 minutes, with 15-minute half time.
- NFHS high school games: 8 minutes, with 10-minute half time.
When Does The Clock Stop?
The clock is stopped whenever the official’s whistle sounds, which may be in the following cases:
- The ball goes out of bounds.
- A free throw is being shot.
- A foul is called.
- During timeouts.
In NBA basketball, the clock is also stopped during the last minute of the first, second, and third periods after a field goal. Besides, the clock is stopped during the last two minutes of the fourth period and/or the last two minutes of overtime after a field goal.
What Is The Shot Clock?
In basketball, the shot clock shows the amount of time a team has to score a legal shot after gaining control of the ball.
The shot clock starts when the team gains possession of the ball. The ball must have left the possessing player’s hand before the shot clock time has elapsed. So if the clock sounds while the ball is still in the air and the ball goes in, it will be scored.
If the shot clock runs out before the possessing team attempts a goal, the team will have committed a shot clock violation, and the possession of the ball goes to the opposing team.
Shot clock duration varies between leagues and associations:
- FIBA games: 24 seconds or 14 seconds after an offensive rebound.
- NBA games: 24 seconds.
- NCAA college games: 35 seconds for men and 30 seconds for women.
- NFHS high school games: 30 or 35 seconds.
A Word About Timeouts
Each basketball team is entitled to a limited number of timeouts during the game. The timeouts allow:
- Coaches to communicate with their team.
- Players to rest or get in sync before play.
- Both teams to make substitutions.
Timeout rules differ between leagues and associations:
- FIBA games: Timeouts last 1 minute, and each team is allowed two timeouts during the first half, three timeouts during the second half (maximum two timeouts when the game clock shows 2:00 or less in the fourth quarter), and one timeout during each overtime. Unused timeouts aren’t carried over to the next half or overtime.
- NBA games: Timeouts last 75 seconds, and each team is allowed seven charged timeouts, with each team limited to four timeouts in the fourth period. Each overtime period has a limit of two timeouts as well.
- NCAA games: NCAA teams are allowed three 30-second timeouts and one 60-second timeout during broadcast games.
- High school games: High school teams are allowed five timeouts per game – three 60-second and two 30-second timeouts. In overtime, each team has an additional 60-second timeout.
There are many more intricacies to know about with timeouts, like mandatory timeouts in NBA or timeout carryover rules. Make sure to check out your association’s rulebook to know what you are dealing with.
Hopefully, you now precisely understand the time rules of basketball!
I actually didn’t cover absolutely everything there is to know in order to keep this guide short and simple. Besides, rules change very fast, and my main goal was to provide you with guidance as to where you should be looking for official basketball rules.