How Long Is A Basketball Game? NBA, WNBA, FIBA

Basketball is an exciting and high-scoring team sport that has fanbases all around the globe.

However, if you want to watch a game, you need to know that the duration played may vary.

It may depend on whether the game is in a professional league or an amateur. The length of games differs between leagues such as the NBA, FIBA, NCAA, and more.

A typical basketball game will last from at least 1 to 3 hours. High school games generally last for about an hour, while a two-and-a-half-hour game is standard for an NBA game. There are a lot of factors that affect the length of a basketball game such as timeouts, breaks, and overtimes.

Now, let us break down a basketball game in terms of its play length.

How long is a basketball game for different leagues?

League/LevelAverage Length of a Basketball Game
1. NBA2 to 3 hours
2. FIBA2 to 2.5 hours
3. WNBA2 hours
4. NCAA2 hours
5. High school Basketball1 to 1.5 hours
6. Youth Basketball1 hour

A typical basketball game will differ in length depending on various considerations, like minutes per quarter or halves, the length of the shot clock, the number and length of timeouts, time intervals between quarters and halftime breaks, overtimes, and dead-ball situations.

Shotclock in basketball

The official governing body, like the NBA or FIBA, will also dictate the length of the basketball game, depending on their rules.

If you look at the table, you’ll notice that the games in professional leagues are played longer than in high school.

Now, let us further break down a basketball game.

How long is each quarter of a basketball game?

League/LevelNumber of Quarters/HalfMinutes per Quarter/Half
1. NBAFour quarters12 minutes per quarter
2. FIBAFour quarters10 minutes per quarter
3. WNBAFour quarters10 minutes per quarter
4a. NCAA Basketball (Men)Two halves20 minutes per half
4b. NCAA Basketball (Women)Four quarters10 minutes per quarter
5. High school BasketballFour quarters8 minutes per quarter
6. Youth BasketballFour quartersTypically 8 minutes per quarter

Each league has a different quarter length that directly contributes to the overall length of the basketball game.

The NBA has four 12-minute quarters or 48 minutes of game time, so a typical NBA game lasts longer at around two to three hours.

FIBA and the WNBA, on the other hand, also have four quarters, similar to other leagues. However, each quarter is only 10 minutes.

The NCAA or college basketball has different rules between the men’s and women’s games in terms of game time. A game is divided into two halves for the men, played two 20 minutes each. While for the women, the game is similar to the WNBA standard of 10 minutes per quarter.

How long is the shot clock per league?

League/LevelLength of the Shot Clock
1. NBA24 seconds
2. FIBA24 seconds
3. WNBA24 seconds
4a. NCAA Basketball (Men)30 seconds
4b. NCAA Basketball (Women)30 seconds
5. High school Basketball35 seconds
6. Youth Basketball24 to 30 seconds

The shot clock is an essential consideration for the pace of a game.

This clock is a countdown timer that indicates how long each team has possession of the ball.

If the timer reaches zero without any player shooting the ball that at least touches the rim, it will be a shot clock violation. If that happens, the ball changes possession.

The standard duration of the shot clock for professional leagues (NBA, FIBA, WNBA) is 24 seconds. It is 30 seconds for the NCAA and 35 seconds for high school leagues. The shot clock resets to the initial time whenever a shot is attempted.

In the NBA, FIBA, and WNBA, there is a so-called 14-second rule. Typically, when the defensive team gets a defensive rebound, the shot clock resets for 24 seconds.

However, if the offensive team retakes the ball for an offensive rebound, the shot clock only resets to 14 seconds.

Other violations only stop the shot clock and do not reset it, like a non-shooting foul, out-of-bounds but same possession, etc.

How long is the halftime break in basketball?

LeagueLength of a halftime break
1. NBA15 minutes
2. FIBA15 minutes
3. WNBA15 minutes
4a. NCAA Basketball (Men)15 minutes
4b. NCAA Basketball (Women)15 minutes
5. High school Basketball10 minutes
6. Youth Basketball5 minutes

The halftime break is a necessary time allocation for basketball games. During the break, both team players and coaches return to the locker room for rest, regrouping, and strategy adjustments.

The time for each league also differs. The break is shorter in youth basketball at five minutes, while the high school basketball’s break is ten minutes.

All the major leagues, such as the NCAA, WNBA, FIBA, and the NBA, have 15-minute halftime breaks.

How long is the overtime in a basketball game?

LeagueLength of overtime (OT) periods
1. NBA5 minutes
2. FIBA5 minutes
3. WNBA5 minutes
4a. NCAA Basketball (Men)5 minutes
4b. NCAA Basketball (Women)5 minutes
5. High school Basketball4 minutes
6. Youth Basketball4 -5 minutes

Basketball is a game where there should be a winner by the end. So, if the game is tied at the end of regulation, an overtime period will begin.

The length of an overtime period is typically 5-minutes and has no limits. That means there can be as many overtime periods as needed for a winner to be decided.

However, since basketball is a physical game and players tend to foul out as the game drags on, the most overtime period in an NBA game is six, which happened in 1951.

What is the typical flow of a basketball game?

Basketball game outdoor

A basketball game starts with the jump ball. A referee tosses the ball between the opposing team’s centers (C) with the goal that the player taps it to his teammate for the possession.

Once the ball is touched, the game clock and the shot clock start.

The offensive team will try to shoot as many baskets as possible, while the defensive team will try to prevent it. Each possession will last as much as the allowed shot clock. Each defensive rebound will reset it to the maximum time, while an offensive rebound (for FIBA, NBA, and WNBA) will reset it to a shorter 14-seconds.

Typically, a basketball game is divided into four quarters ranging from 8 minutes to 12 minutes (please refer to the table), except for NCAA Men’s, which is played in two 20-minute halves. After two quarters, the game takes a halftime break (one ‘half’ for NCAA Men).

The game will continue for another two quarters to determine the winner when the second half begins.

If the regulation ends after four quarters with the scores tied, the game will continue to overtime periods until a team scores more points than the other. 

10 common factors affecting the length of a basketball game

Timeout in basketball

1. Fouls 

Each foul stops the game clock. The referees decide if fouls happen during a play. The more fouls are called, the longer the game will be because of the delays.

For reference, during the 2021-22 NBA Season, the average number of fouls per game is almost 20. This includes both shooting and non-shooting fouls. 

2. Free Throws and Free-Throw Routines

Each team averages around 20 free throw attempts per game in connection to shooting fouls. So, if a player spends so much time preparing for his free throws, it would easily add more time to the game’s total length.

3. Shot clock

Shot clocks determine a team’s ball possession and end with a shot attempt or a shot clock violation. Some leagues implement the 24-second shot clock, while others use 30- or 35- second clocks.

4. Various Violations

There are so many violations in a basketball game, like three-seconds, five-seconds, and eight-seconds violations, to name a few. Each violation will add a few extra seconds to the game duration.

5. Timeouts

Each team can have seven timeouts in a game, depending on the league. For example, each team can call up to seven timeouts with 75-seconds each in the NBA. Assuming that both teams spent their timeouts, it will add at least another 10 minutes of game time (remember that the NBA only has 12-minute quarters).

6. Halftime Break

The halftime break adds another 15-minutes in a game on top of the regular time in most leagues.

7. Overtimes

The beauty of a competitive basketball game is that it doesn’t stop until there is a clear winner. So, a game can drag on and on.

8. Replays

Replays, especially in the last two minutes of the game, are crucial because every possession, every foul, and basket counts — and the referees know that.

9. Injuries

Injuries are one aspect of the game no one likes, and with an injury, the game clock may stop to relieve the fallen player.

10. Wet Floors

Often unnoticed, wet floors during falls and collisions happen all the time. Since no one wants to see anyone slipping on the floor into an injury, it is a necessary precaution.

How long Are basketball games compared to other major sports? 

LeagueTypical Length of a Game
1. National Basketball Association (NBA)2 to 3 hours
2. Major League Baseball (MLB)3 hours +
3. National Football League (NFL)2 to 3 hours
4. National Hockey League (NHL)2.5 to 3 hours
5. Major League Soccer (MLS)2 hours

There are four major North American Sports League, five if you add Major League Soccer. And if you’ll notice from the table, almost every major sports league has a two-hour game.

Though most of these leagues have game clocks, the actual playing time can extend for various reasons, like in the NBA.


The length of a basketball varies depending on the level. The average basketball game is one to three hours which is why it’s important to plan ahead.

But even if this is the average, there are still factors that we can’t predict which contribute to the length of the game.

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