How Long Is An NBA Game?

The NBA, or the National Basketball Association, is one of the most popular basketball leagues in the world.

Fans like us tune in to these games because the most famous basketball athletes are playing in this league.

Watching the NBA is exciting and fun. However, not many people know how long an NBA game lasts.

If you want to know how long NBA games are on average, then this article has all you need to know.

How Long Is An NBA Basketball Game?

NBA basketball games consist of four quarters with twelve minutes each, for a total of forty-eight minutes. However, a typical NBA game can take about two to three hours to finish due to several factors.

Each basketball quarter is twelve minutes, and the game clock stops whenever there are timeouts, free throws, or an injured player needs to be attended to.

The average length of NBA halftimes is fifteen minutes and is one of the few reasons an NBA match lasts longer than your average basketball match.

Also, if the score is tied between two opposing teams at the end of the game, an overtime period ensues.

Overtime periods are an additional five minutes of game time to decide which team is victorious.

In addition, a playoff basketball match takes more time to finish than your average regular season NBA game because of extended commercial breaks.

Fun Fact: The average NBA game length of a playoff game can go as long as three hours!

How Long Are Basketball Games in Schools?

High school and college basketball games vary in duration compared to the NBA.

In the United States, governing bodies such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA) are responsible for the rules and regulations that affect the average game length.

Here’s a breakdown of various basketball game lengths in college and high school games:

High School Basketball Games

The NFSHSA is responsible for making the rules and regulations for high school basketball games and other youth basketball game leagues.

High school games should consist of a thirty-two-minute game split into four eight-minute quarters.

A high school basketball game should last around one-and-a-half hours to finish.

In addition, a high school basketball game has a “mercy rule,” allowing them to run the game clock to finish the game faster when there’s a lead of more than 30 points.

College Basketball Games

In the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a college basketball game consists of two halves with twenty minutes each, while college women’s games are split into four quarters with ten minutes each.

College basketball games tend to be highly competitive. College players perform at the highest level because scouts from NBA teams are usually in attendance.

If you’re wondering what the longest match ever played in Women’s College History was, then the answer is the match between Bradley University against the University of Cincinnati in 1981 which lasted for 75 minutes.

It took an extra seven overtime periods to end the game!

How Long Does An Olympic Basketball Game Take?

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) is the governing body responsible for making the rules and regulations for the Olympics and other international professional basketball games.

In the Olympics, a typical Olympic basketball match is broken down into four ten-minute quarters. The match usually lasts about two hours or less because there are fewer timeouts and breaks.

In addition, FIBA games also follow the same rules and regulations. FIBA games have four quarters consisting of ten minutes. The three-point line is much closer to the basket than the NBA by a foot.

What Are The Factors That Affect The Length Of An NBA Game?

If you’re wondering why 48 minutes of game time action lasts longer, then it’s because a lot goes behind it.

I will break it down for you:

1. Commercial Breaks

Because of commercial breaks, NBA games are longer than any other professional basketball games.

There are eight commercial breaks every half, which means four in one quarter. A typical commercial break lasts around 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Replays

When something happens on the basketball court, and game officials are having a hard time deciding on a call, they would rely on replays to determine what the final call should be.

As a result, it would take around two to five minutes for an official to go over a replay.

They don’t usually happen during the game, but when the stakes are high, especially in the playoffs, they tend to use every second to review the calls, making the match even longer.

3. Time Outs

NBA timeouts are one of the reasons for clock stoppages. When coaches call for timeout, officials stop the time and allow them to speak with their players and discuss their game plan.

In the NBA, a team is only allowed seven timeouts per game. Timeouts can be categorized into full time-outs and twenty-second time-outs.

But it’s a rarity in the NBA to have short time-outs, which usually extend beyond the allotted time.

4. Free Throws

A free throw is an integral part of any basketball game. Most of the time it is one of the reasons why a game clock stops.

Every basketball player has different rituals when taking their free throws, and a lot of players take longer than usual to take their shots. As a result, it takes up additional time.

In addition, during close games where one or two points can decide the game’s outcome, the opposing team must foul the other team to stop the clock and hope the player misses the free throws for them to get a chance to win the game.

While this tactic is popular among other sports, it also stops time, extending the game longer. It is one of the reasons why the fourth quarter is the longest quarter out of all four quarters in an NBA game.

Free throws occur when there’s a shooting or a non-shooting foul. If an NBA team is over the foul limit, the opposing team is required to shoot penalty free throws, as stated in the rule book.

If there’s a shooting foul wherein a player is fouled in the act of shooting, they are also required to shoot free throws.

5. Injuries

No one knows when injuries happen. But if they do, they tend to make the game longer. Injuries are inevitable in basketball.

Injuries can be a bit dragging if a player sustains a major injury, breaking their ankles, injuring their ligaments, or sustaining dislocated bones. It takes longer because medics are needed to arrive at the scene.

Also, preparing stretchers or wheelchairs takes time in case of a major injury. While nobody wants to see a player get injured, it is one of the reasons why basketball games are extended relatively longer.

But if a player only sustains a minor injury, they can leave on the court and get treated in the locker room or on the sidelines.

6. Halftime Shows

Half-time shows aren’t included in the forty-eight minutes of playing time. NBA games typically have fifteen-minute halftime shows.

At the end of the first half, both teams return to their respective locker rooms, and the half-time show will start then. During this time, various shows and events occur in the court during the allotted time.

From cheerdancers showing their dancing skills to mascots entertaining the crowd, half-time shows are also the factor why NBA games are longer.

7. Overtime Period

In the NBA, each overtime period lasts for five minutes. If both teams are still tied at the end of the fourth quarter, another five-minute is added to the game time.

How Do Overtime Periods Work In A Basketball Game?

Overtime period kicks in when two basketball teams are tied in points scored at the end of regulation. As a result, both teams enter another extended period for five minutes, wherein they battle it out until one team prevails.

One of my all-time favorite NBA games is the historic 4-overtime finish between the Trail Blazers and the Nuggets.

Watch this video to see how long a game can extend due to overtime periods.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are some of the questions that I’m frequently asked about the length of NBA games:

What Is the Longest NBA Game Played In History?

In NBA history, the longest NBA game happened between Rochester Royals and Indianapolis Olympians in 1951.

It took around 78 minutes and six overtime periods before the Olympians finally won.

As a result, this game was included in the Guinness World Records as one of the longest basketball games ever played in the history of the sport.

Why Do NBA Games Have 12-Minute Quarters?

The purpose of the NBA having twelve-minute quarters is to give the fans a more enjoyable, exciting, and longer entertainment.

The NBA has always played with twelve-minute quarters, and iterations about the game time haven’t changed much.

When Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891, the original rules stated that the game is played for two fifteen-minute halves.

But, when the NBA was founded in 1946, most executives suggested that fans would be dismayed with such a quick game. As a result, they agreed that the NBA should be played in four quarters with twelve minutes apiece.

How Long Is Half-time In NBA Games?

NBA games typically have fifteen-minute half-time breaks. However, some basketball players and the entire team usually come out of the locker room earlier to do their pre-game warm-up routines.

What Is The Longest WNBA Game?

A WNBA match usually ends in about two hours; however, the longest recorded match happened between the Cleveland Rockers and Orlando Miracle.

It took three overtime periods before the Orlando Miracle basketball team could seal the victory.

To this day, the match is the longest in Women’s National Basketball Association history.

Why Are Playoff Games Longer Than Regular Season Games?

Playoff games are longer than regular season games because there are more commercial breaks.

In addition, playoff basketball games usually end around two and a half hours compared to a regular season game, which ends around two hours.

When Does The Shot Clock Stop?

A shot clock is the allotted time for a basketball team to score. A shot clock stops if there’s a pause in the game, whether the ball went out of bounds, a free throw, a foul, or a timeout has been called.

In addition, the NBA has a 24-second shot clock, whereas college basketball games have 35 seconds.


A typical NBA game is played for 48 minutes of game time, but with various factors deciding the game length, it should take around two and a half hours to finish your average NBA match.

I really hope my quick guide helped you learn what makes the NBA match longer than expected.