How Many Periods in Basketball? [NBA Vs Other Leagues]

Morgan Wolf

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How Many Periods in Basketball

Previously, we learned about the basics of basketball. It is time to take things a little deeper.
Basketball is a popular sport worldwide. While different organizations follow the same rules, there remains some contrast in the structure of this sport across different leagues. 

To enjoy the sport from its ins and outs, we will learn about the periods in basketball. Now, this may seem tricky because based on the stages of the gameplay, there can be four or two and a half periods.

Today, we will explore all the possibilities and find out how many periods actually make up a basketball. In the end, we will also learn how it varies for different leagues. 

Periods in Basketball

Periods in Basketball


Like any other game, basketball is also made up of a specific block of time. We call this period in basketball. 

Each period represents a part of the game during which the clock is running and the teams play against each other. 

It gets easier with periods in basketball, ensuring a fair distribution of game strategy, and discussion, and maintaining order in the gameplay.  

How Long Is A Basketball Game? 

It depends on where you are watching your game. Are you in the stadium or simply behind your tv screen? This changes a lot. 

In addition to that, you will also notice time differences across different leagues and organizations. 

For example, a high school game may take only an hour and a half whereas any NBA gameplay will finish in two to two and a half hours. 

Here is why you notice this time gap: 

Number of Quarter Minutes

The National Basketball Association (NBA) matches have a total of 48 minutes of gameplay.

On the other hand, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for men’s and women’s matches last 40 minutes on average.
When it comes to high school basketball games, it only takes 32 minutes period. Overtime periods may happen occasionally but rarely. 

This is the reason why you experience this time difference between high school basketball leagues and other organizations. 

Halftime Break

In basketball, halftime breaks are regulated. Both NBA and NCAA have halftime breaks. During this time, players go to the changing rooms to refresh themselves and individual coaches get the time to prepare strategies. 

Both leagues offer a halftime break of 15 minutes in real time. The match stops after the half time of the game and pauses for 15 minutes. 

The halftime break is the same for the high school leagues too. They receive an estimated 10-15 minutes per match. 


In Basketball records, overtime is a rare phenomenon. However, when two teams result in a tie and there is no winner within the last quarter, officials will issue an overtime of 5 minutes at max. 

Be it for NBA, NCAA, WNBA, or FIBA, the overtime period will last for 5 minutes only. But there is no limit on how many overtime periods may occur in the game; equally goes for men’s and women’s college basketball games.

Each team will get a significant amount of extra time-outs for every overtime period they play. 

Other Timeouts 

During the gameplay, in total, other timeouts are also available in basketball. NBA players get a total of 7 timeouts. Each timeout lasts for 75 seconds.
However, it turns out a bit more strategic for the NCAA players. They have 4 timeouts in total; within which one lasts for 60 seconds and the other three last for 30 seconds. 

High school players have 5 timeouts; three of them last for 60 seconds while the other two last for 30 seconds.  

But can basketball teams utilize the timeouts anytime? The answer is No. A player or the head coach can only request a timeout when the ball is dead or is in the control of the player of the team who is making the plea. Otherwise, the request won’t be granted. 

How Many Periods Are In Basketball? 

How Many Periods Are In Basketball

At this point in our article, you can guess how long a basketball match can take and the influencing factors. Now, we will learn how periods fit into the game. 

The number of periods varies depending on leagues and other organizations. For example, NBA tournaments have four periods; each period lasting up to 12 minutes. In total, it completes 48 minutes of the game quarter. 

Both NCAA Women’s Basketball and International Basketball Federation (FIBA)  have 4 periods; each lasting for 10 minutes. 

The NCAA Men’s Basketball ends with only two periods; with each half lasting for 20 minutes. Each match is followed by a two-minute interval between the first and the second period.                                                                                                                                                                                    

However, if the game ends in a tie, there will be a five-minute overtime to determine the result. Mark that, periods are also known as the quarters of the match. 

The numbers we mentioned here may seem perfect in theories. But in reality, periods may take longer than usual due to other factors like timeouts or poor weather conditions. 

Periods in Different Basketball Organizations

By this stage, you already have an idea of how periods vary from league to league. Take a look at the table below. 

SubjectNBA NCAA Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)FIBA
Period per Game42 (for men)

4 (for women)

4 since 2005 (Earlier 2)4
Per Period Time 12 Minutes 20 Minutes (for men)

10 Minutes (for women)

10 Minutes 10 Minutes 
Half time15 Minutes 15 Minutes15 Minutes (Occasionally extended to 20 Minutes)15 Minutes 
Time Between First/Second Periods and Third/Fourth Periods2 and ½ Minutes1 MinuteN/A2 Minutes
Overtime5 Minutes5 Minutes5 Minutes5 Minutes
Shot Clock24 Seconds30 Seconds30 Seconds30 Seconds
Back Court Violation8 Seconds10 Seconds10 Seconds8 Seconds
Player Foul Limit5565
Closely Guarded for Five SecondsYes, only in a throw-in scenarioYes, when the offensive player’s holding the ballNoYes, while holding the ball
Game Clock Stops After Successful FG (Field Goal)During the last minute of the first, second, and third periodsWhen a first down is earned during the last two minutes of either halfLast minute of each half and overtimeLast two minutes of 4th period and overtime
Timeouts Called ByOfficial scorerCoachPlayers in gameCoach

Definition of Terms:
Shot Clock: It is a time limit applied to teams to make attempts for goals. Basketball players shouldn’t hold the ball for more than a specific time. This promotes the dynamic style of the game. 

Back Court Violation: The most common violation in basketball; also known as over and back violation. It happens when the offensive team illegally passes the midcourt and returns to the backcourt before possessing the ball. 

Player Foul Limit: In basketball, each team can have a specific number of fouls without facing any penalties. However, having more than this specific number of fouls can result in a free throw to the opposing team. 

External Factors That Affect The Basketball Period 

In addition to internal rules and regulations, some other external factors will also affect the length of the basketball periods. In this section, we will get a detailed overview of those factors: 

Fouls Calls and Injuries

Foul calls, injuries, out-of-bound balls, and free throws can affect the periods of basketball. In the event of a foul, the game is momentarily paused. In response to the foul, free throws or inbound passes may follow. 

For any player’s injury, the official play may stop for some time. The team with the injury will get the ball after resuming the game with the ball still in play. The injured team can call for a timeout with one of their players being injured. The game shall resume when the environment and conditions are safe again to play. 

TV Timeouts

Large tournaments like NBA are often televised. Thus, you will find additional timeouts for commercial breaks for running ads on TV. 

TV breaks have predetermined intervals and broadcasters get the scope to air commercials.
There are four mandatory TV timeouts in each quarter of the NBA. Subsequently scheduled at the first stoppage after the 6.00, 3.00, and 9.00 marks. 

In the case of the NCAA and high school basketball, they are rarely televised. However, in exceptional scenarios, NCAA sports may be televised. 

In the past, there have been two NCAA matches telecasted on ESPN. The ads take place at the first stoppage after the 16:00, 12:00, 8:00, and 4:00 marks of each half. 

Replay Reviews

In addition to the timeouts and overtime, replay reviews can also kill some time in the basketball period. 

In some leagues, instant replay is used to review close or controversial calls made by referees. It will require additional time stoppages with an increase in the length of the periods. 

If replays are to be made, the crew chief and a second official go to the scorer’s table and review the replays with the help of the Replay Center Official. Another third official will observe the benches.
The entire process shouldn’t take more than two minutes (according to Section III, Rule 13). However, time may increase to extend the review process as needed. 

Other Factors

Apart from the regulated factors, basketball matches may also meet extended times due to other natural reasons. Such as frequent scoring may eat up some time and more time will become essential to end the match.
On the other hand, low-score basketball games may conclude more quickly than expected. Other things you can take into concern are the style of the play, intensity, and overall speed players seem to have. 

A basketball match using excessive shot clocks or frequent overtime may end up in a longer duration period. 

Longest Match in NBA History

Talking about the duration of basketball tournaments, what was the longest basketball match recorded? It was 78 minutes! Yeah! You heard it right. 

The match took place between Rochester Royals and the Indianapolis Olympians on January 6, 1951. It happened in New York.

With a record of 6 overtime in the match, the Olympians beat Rochester with a 75–73 score. This was also the maximum number of overtime recorded in the history of basketball. 

Last Thought on Periods in Basketball? 

Like the innings of baseball or the first half of football, basketball is associated with periods. 

So, what’s your opinion on the periods in basketball? We believe if basketball didn’t allocate times with periods, the match would get out of order; followed by chaos. 

Call it the periods or quarter system, it has put the play in order. Players can better prepare, discuss, and plan the progression of the following match with the assistance of the coach. They also get proper time to refresh themselves a bit. 

This doesn’t end here. We will come back again with more things to learn about basketball.  

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Morgan Wolf

Journalist with experience covering the intersection of sports with business. Demonstrated expertise in digital, video and social media content covering major sports including soccer, NBA, NFL, MLB, tennis and Olympic sports. But basketball is his passion. Specialties: expert for sports related content management LinkedIn