Can You Tie In Basketball? Rule Guide

Unlike soccer, the game of basketball has a high-scoring nature. Stricter rules have also been put in place to level the playing field. These are just some reasons we rarely see basketball games ending in ties.

But you might wonder, when unique situations arise, such as when both teams have unstoppable momentum, can you tie in basketball?

Official basketball games generally can’t end in a tie. Even if the score ends in a draw at the end of the fourth quarter, there will be a five-minute extension of the game called overtime. If the game ends in a tie, teams will continue playing in succeeding overtime periods.

Can You Tie in Basketball?

There are several ways you can score points in basketball. The basic value of a successful field goal is worth two points. But if you threw a successful basket outside the two-point area or further away from your frontcourt, that will be a whopping three-point shot.

In addition, there are times when a player from the opposing team commits a foul against you. You will be entitled to a free throw worth one point when that happens.

These all said, basketball games hardly end in a tie. And you’ll probably agree that the many scoring opportunities make games ending in a tie inexcusable. So, generally, official games can’t end without a team in the lead.

But in some cases, this is tolerated. For example, exhibition games are allowed to end in a tie.

What Happens When there’s a Tie in Basketball?

In the original basketball rules created by James Naismith, it was stated that if the game ends in a draw, the game may be continued until a team makes a successful field goal that breaks the tie. Worldwide, most leagues adopt this rule. That’s why if there’s a draw at the end of the regulation, teams continue playing in an overtime period.

An overtime period typically lasts four to five minutes. Rules are pretty much the same as the regulation period rules. There are just some minor differences regarding team fouls and timeouts.

Also, a player who is fouled out will not be allowed to continue playing in the overtime period.

The score isn’t reset when the game is extended. If the first overtime period and the next period after that still end in a draw, teams will continue playing in succeeding overtime periods until a team scores a tiebreaker.

Basketball Tie Rules in Different Leagues

Official basketball game

How do leagues specifically handle the situation when a basketball tie occurs?


The game will continue in five-minute overtime when the fourth quarter ends in a tie. All overtime periods in NBA take five minutes. If the first overtime period ends in a tie, the game will proceed in succeeding overtime periods until there is a winning team.


The Rule Four – Playing Regulations, Article 8.7 of the official FIBA rulebook mentions that if the fourth quarter ends in a draw, the game should be extended to as many five-minute overtime periods as necessary for a team to score a tiebreaker.


NCAA adopts very similar tie rules implemented in NBA and FIBA. They can also extend the game to as many five-minute overtime periods as needed to determine the winner.


In high school basketball in the USA, varsity games may have overtime periods that last four minutes long to achieve a tiebreaker. On the other hand, Junior varsity implements three-minute overtime periods to break a tie. Note, though, that the duration of an overtime period in junior varsity may differ per state.

How Long do Basketball Games Last?

The entire duration of basketball games varies per league. For example, an NBA game usually lasts up to two hours and a half during the regular season. Games may take longer for up to three hours in the playoffs and finals.

Similar to NBA, WNBA games may run from two to two and a half hours. Clock stoppages influence the total time that a game may take in these leagues.

Conversely, as you’d expect, game length is typically shorter in college and high school basketball. A standard NCAA basketball game is 40 minutes long, while in high school and youth basketball, the game length is typically around 32 minutes.

Longest Basketball Games in History

We’ve mentioned that a basketball game can’t end in a tie. This is why leagues extend the game to as many overtime periods as necessary to determine the winner. That said, if a game is so tight and both teams are strong and seem unbeatable, a game might take hours to finish!

Wondering what are some of the longest basketball games in history? Here are a few examples.

Indianapolis Olympians vs. Rochester Royals (NBA, January 6, 1951)

This match is the longest game in NBA history. Both teams were determined to gain ground as if losing was never an option. The game needed six overtime periods to end in 75-73, where Indianapolis emerged as the winning team.

Bradley vs. Cincinnati (College basketball, December 21, 1981)

Think of it as a déjà vu, but this college basketball game ended in 75-73, where Cincinnati took the lead after a buzzer-beater shot in the seventh overtime period.

Syracuse vs. Connecticut (College basketball, March 12, 2009)

This game took six overtime periods and ended in 127-117. The scores are not close. And in this case, we can say that Syracuse pretty much got aggressive in the last overtime period.

Boone Trail High vs. Angier High (High School Basketball, February 29, 1964)

Who would believe these youths were already so competitive at their young age that it took 13 overtime periods to finally close the game with a score of 54-52? After the hard-fought game that lasted three and half hours, Boone Trail emerged as the victor.

Final Thoughts

Considering the tie rules of the different leagues and a few examples of the longest basketball games in history, your final takeaway is right.

If a game should be extended until the next day and the day after that, or if it needs to take forever to break the tie, then so be it. In basketball, determining the victor in every game is non-negotiable.

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