American sports are famed for many things, but the speed of their completion is not one of them. Other sports like to get in, get the job done and get out again.
Not so the NBA…
IF YOU’RE SETTLING IN FOR A GAME YOU’D BETTER BE PREPARED TO BE THERE FOR A WHILE…
In the National Basketball Association, each standard, regular-season game is made up of 4 x 12 minute quarters.
This makes for a total standard playing time of forty-eight minutes.
Overtime is added onto this in increments of 5 minutes until one team is victorious.
How long does a basketball game last?
THE TYPICAL NBA GAME TAKES BETWEEN 2-2.5 HOURS TO COMPLETE…
SO, WHERE DOES ALL THE EXTRA TIME COME FROM?
To begin with, let’s look at a fixed break-down of timings for an NBA game from the NBA’s official website:
SECTION II—TIMINGAll periods of regulation play in the NBA will be twelve minutes.All overtime periods of play will be five minutes.Fifteen minutes will be permitted between halves of all games.2:30 will be permitted between the first and second periods, the third and fourth periods and before any overtime period during local games. For national TV games 3:30 will be permitted between the first and second periods, the third and fourth periods and 2:30 before any overtime period.A team is permitted a total of 30 seconds to replace a disqualified player.The game is considered to be in the two-minute part when the game clock shows 2:00 or less time remaining in the period.The public address operator is required to announce that there are two minutes remaining in each period.The game clock shall be equipped to show tenths-of-a-second during the last minute of each period.
First and foremost, NBA teams have about 20 minutes to prepare themselves before the game starts.
Q1 – 12 mins
Break – 2:30 mins
Q2 – 12 mins
Break – 15 mins
Q3 – 12 mins
Break – 2:30 mins
Q4 – 12 mins
OVERTIME PERIOD (OT)
Overtime periods take place when all four quarters are completed but there is still no winner. Any team that scores more points during overtime wins and the game ends.
Break 2:30 mins
Overtime – 5 mins, repeated until a winner is found.
We might expect all of this, including ‘preparation time’ to take 88 uninterrupted mins. But we have not yet accounted for:
Each quarter ends and the clock officially stops when the referee calls time and blows the whistle.
The referee will also make the clock stop when:
The ball leaves the playing area.
Foul calls. Any free throw resulting from player fouls will be taken while the clock remains stopped.
The two teams temporarily break to make substitutions.
A player scores any field goal (see NBA regulations below for criteria)
Any team calls for a timeout
If an NBA (or WNBA) team uses all their allocated time-outs then they can extend the length of the game by up to nine minutes. However, there are restrictions as to their distribution throughout the game.
Teams must take one full time-out per quarter and can’t use more than three time-outs in the fourth quarter.
If two or more time-outs remain in the fourth quarter, the rules reduce the 75-second time-out to just 20 seconds.
Here are the NBA’s regulations regarding stoppages:
SECTION V—STOPPAGE OF TIMING DEVICESThe timing devices shall be stopped whenever the official’s whistle sounds.The timing devices shall be stopped:During the last minute of the first, second and third periods following a successful field goal attempt.During the last two minutes of regulation play and/or last two minutes of over- time(s) following a successful field goal attempt.Officials may not use official time to permit a player to change or repair equipment.SECTION VI—TIMEOUTS – MANDATORY/TEAMEach team is entitled to seven (7) charged timeouts during regulation play. +Each team is limited to no more than four (4) timeouts in the fourth period. Each team will be limited to two (2) team timeouts after the later of (i) the three-minute mark of the fourth period or (ii) the conclusion of the second mandatory timeout of the fourth period.In overtime periods, each team shall be allowed two (2) team timeouts.There must be two mandatory timeouts in each period.If neither team has taken a timeout prior to 6:59 of the period, it shall be mandatory for the Official Scorer to take it at the first dead ball and charge it to the home team. If no subsequent timeouts are taken prior to 2:59, it shall be mandatory for the Official Scorer to take it and charge it to the team not previously charged.The Official Scorer shall notify a team when it has been charged with a mandatory time-out.Mandatory timeouts shall be 2:45 for local games and 3:15 for national games. Any additional team timeouts in a period beyond those which are mandatory shall be 1:15.No mandatory timeout may be charged during an official’s suspension of play.A request for a timeout by a player in the game or the head coach shall be granted only when the ball is dead or in control of a player on the team making the request. A request at any other time shall be ignored.During a timeout, all substitutions are legal for both teams.This rule may be used for any reason, including a request for a rule If the correction is sustained, no timeout shall be charged.
IT IS ALSO TRUE
that commercial factors affect the timings of professional basketball games. Those that are nationally televised are subject to longer commercial breaks and those games tend to run even longer than normal. This does not just apply to regular-season games but is also a significant factor in NBA Playoff games and especially Finals and high-profile NCAA March Madness college games.
Olympic games are subject to a different set of timings and rules, not least of which being that the 3-point line is a foot nearer to the basket than is standard for the NBA.
THE LONGEST NBA GAME EVER
The longest NBA game in history happened in the 1951 season. The Rochester Royals took on the Indianapolis Olympians at Edgerton Park Arena.
By the time the dust settled, the game clock showed that 78 minutes had been played. A full 30 more than a standard game without OT. The Olympians took it in the end 75-73 and the game is still mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records to this day.
The longest college basketball game took place in 1981. The Bradley Braves and the Cincinnati Bearcats went toe-to-toe for 75 minutes. It is also a significant college basketball game in that it broke the record for the longest time a basketball player has spent on the court. Both Braves’ center Donald Reese and Bears’ guard Bobby Austin played 73 minutes each.
HOW LONG DO COLLEGE BASKETBALL GAMES LAST IN THE NCAA?
The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
College basketball games are played out over two halves of 20 minutes each. The average length of a game is about 2 hours and 10 minutes. As with the NBA, half time in college games is 15 minutes. The overtime period is also 5 minutes.
HOW LONG IS A TYPICAL HIGH-SCHOOL BASKETBALL GAME?
Most high school games have four quarters of 8 minutes each and a halftime of 10 minutes.
We’ve all done it. Been grateful for the commercial breaks during a Playoff game that allowed us to dash to the bathroom or fill up a much-needed beverage.
There are, undeniably, a lot of stoppages and periods of inactivity when watching NBA basketball games. Opinions are divided on how irritating (or not) that is even here in The Jump Hub office. Sure, these things take time and some NBA games simply aren’t worth the investment of time. But when those special ones come along…
Ooh, we want to savor every moment. Do we want the whole thing to be done and dusted in less than an hour?!?! Hell no. Drink it in. Savor the atmosphere and the tension. The end of each basketball quarter is a chance to evaluate and make predictions. Plus, it gives those of us who enjoy live betting the chance to pick some new lines. At the end of the day, if it takes a bit longer then so be it…