Why Do NBA Games Start Late? Real Answer

NBA is now a global sport where fans worldwide watch it live regardless of the time zone. However, it is noticeable that NBA Games are likely to start later than the scheduled time. With pre-season games, 82 regular-season games, play-in tournaments, and playoffs, games that are not starting on time are common.

But why do NBA games start late?

NBA Games usually start at 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM Eastern time. The league has decided to start games at night since that’s when people usually got off work. But the actual start time typically starts around 10 minutes later than the scheduled tip-off time due to many reasons.

Let us see look closer at why NBA games start later than advertised.

What Time Does an NBA game start?

The NBA Season lasts for eight to nine months. It typically starts in mid-October and until mid-June for the NBA Finals. The season will go on with 82 regular-season games and playoff games, but what’s consistent with these games is that they often start late.

One common reason behind these delays is the NBA’s partnerships with TV Networks wherein TV ads and commercials are shown at the program’s start. For example, if the game time is set to start at 8:00 PM, it is only the start of the show to be broadcasted. The actual game will start after a few TV ads.

There are also warm-ups, player announcements, and the singing of the national anthem that is included in the whole duration of the game.

Why do NBA Games Start Late at Night?


The typical NBA game airs between 7:00 to 10:00 PM Eastern Time, which is relatively late at night. While this may seem too close to bedtime, this time slot is great for people with day jobs who are only free at night to watch games in the arena.

Before the pandemic, ticket sales revenue totals billions for the NBA and its team owners. While it dipped during the bubble season, it is now steadily returning to its previous margin.

Since the NBA uses Eastern Time, another reason why NBA games are played late at night is to maximize the time slot where most of the US Time Zones are covered. Pacific Time, Mountain Time, and Central Time are all time zones later than Eastern Time.

This means that if a game starts at 10 PM ET, It will be 7 PM Pacific Time, 8 PM Mountain Time, and 9 PM Central Time. Using the time window where most of the US can watch a game will also be advantageous financially for the NBA and its media partners.

Other Reasons for NBA Games to Start Late

While the reasons already mentioned are the common culprits of the delayed start of games, there are also unexpected reasons. Here are some of the reasons why NBA Games are surprisingly delayed.

The funny thing is these delays often happen in the playoffs, even in the NBA Finals!

1. Rain Delays

During the past seasons, some games got delayed due to leaks on the roof after heavy rains. While it may seem that this shouldn’t be a problem in modern sporting venues at this time, unfortunately, it still happens.

2. Broken Lightings

You can’t play professional basketball in the dark. That happens when the lighting system suddenly malfunctions, causing precious minutes for the game.

3. Political Stands

There are a lot of political issues and injustices in the United States. Some of these issues are very close to the hearts of players, coaches, and teams willing to delay the game and cost them some technical fouls.

4. Unexpected animals

During some NBA games, some animals, usually bats, may be interested in watching that they fly into the arena and cause game delays. Too bad Manu Ginobili is already retired to swat these flying mammals.

5. Unsuspected ‘Packages’

During a playoff game between the Heat and the Hawks, an unsuspected package that was initially assumed to be a bomb was seen that caused the delay of the game and some investigations.

6. Unexpected Events and Moments of Silence

In January 2020, Kobe Bryant unexpectedly died at the age of 41. This caused the whole basketball community to mourn. The first game after this incident was between the Rockets and the Nuggets, which began with a moment of silence.

Other moments of silence are also held when mourning the deaths of NBA personalities, social injustices like the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the War in Ukraine.

How Long do NBA Games Last?

A typical NBA Game lasts between two and a half hours to more than three hours.

Some factors for extended games include timeouts, the halftime break, overtimes, fouls, free throws and player routines, violations, injuries, and game reviews.

What Goes on in an NBA Game?

NBA game in a stadium

The NBA is a long-standing business and entertainment enterprise, and along with this, the NBA made a program flow for every game.

1. National Anthem

At the start of every NBA game, the national anthem is sung. Only the US National Anthem is sung for games where both teams are from the US.

However, the Canadian National Anthem, O Canada, is also played along with The Star-Spangled Banner whenever a game includes the Toronto Raptors, the lone Canadian team in the NBA.

2. Introduction of players

During the preliminaries of an NBA game, players are introduced to the crowd. The visiting team is introduced very quickly, then introduces the home team with enthusiasm. The order of introduction is usually only for the starters, with the star player introduced last.

3. First half

While the two halves of an NBA game are 24-minutes long, 12 minutes per quarter, the first half is usually much faster since the game’s intensity is just beginning to intensify. Reviews of plays, violations, and the likes don’t usually happen until the second half.

4. Halftime Show

The halftime show is the entertainment prepared for fans during the halftime break. There are games for the audience, t-shirt cannons, and performances ready to entertain the fans while the teams strategize for the second half.

5. Second half

The second half is also 24-minutes long, with 12 minutes per quarter. However, the intensity of the game is usually higher.

The final few minutes of the fourth quarter is usually the longest time for close basketball games. This is where fouls, free throws, timeouts, and instant replays happen.

6. Overtime

Overtimes happen if the game is still tied after the final buzzer in the fourth quarter. NBA Games don’t limit how many 5-minute overtimes can happen, as long as no team has won.


NBA games start at night since that’s when most people have free time to watch the games. We also learned that there are many reasons why games can start late like rains, broken lightings and others.

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