Length of Basketball Games

Basketball arena
If the score is tied at the end, an overtime period is used. (Image: efks/iStock/Getty Images)

Not all basketball games are created equal. Depending on the level of basketball you play, the length of the game can vary widely. Whether you're a player, a coach or the official timer at the game, understanding the rules regarding the length of the game will help you be more effective at doing your job.

High School

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, all high school basketball games must last at least 32 minutes. This game time is divided into four equal quarters lasting eight minutes each. In between the first and second quarters and the third and fourth quarters, players and coaches remain on the floor during an official timeout. A halftime intermission of 10 minutes is observed between the second and third quarters.

College

College basketball uses two halves instead of four quarters of play. Each half lasts 20 minutes, making the total time 40 minutes for a regulation game. There is a 15-minute halftime period.

National Basketball Association

Like high school, the NBA uses quarters, but the quarters are longer, 12 minutes each, allowing for an overall game time of 48 minutes, the longest of the three levels of basketball. Like college basketball, the halftime period lasts 15 minutes in the NBA.

Overtime

If the score is tied at the end of regulation, all levels of basketball use an overtime period. In high school basketball, this overtime period is four minutes. In college basketball and the NBA, the overtime period lasts five minutes. If the score is still tied at the end of overtime, another overtime period is used. This continues until one team wins at the end of an overtime period.

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