What is the Longest Overtime in NBA History

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Overtime is an exciting part of any basketball game. It’s the time when the players really have to hustle and play their hardest in order to win. But what is the longest overtime in NBA history? Keep reading to find out! 

How Does Overtime Work in NBA_ How Does Overtime Work in NBA? 

The rules of overtime in the NBA are designed to give each team a fair chance at winning. In an NBA game, regular time is forty-eight minutes long and is divided into four quarters of twelve minutes each.  

If a game is tied after forty-eight minutes, it goes into overtime. For example, this can happen if a game is tied at the end of regulation. 


In overtime, the first possession is determined by a jump ball. Once a player touches the ball, the overtime period lasts five minutes. 

There are no draws in the NBA. Therefore, if the overtime period ends in another tie, the teams must play another overtime period to determine the victor.  


The same rules in scoring apply. Each field goal made within the arc is worth two points, while field goals beyond the three-point line are worth three. Free throws, on the other hand, are worth one each. 

Timeouts and Coach’s Challenge 

Timeouts reset when regulation ends. This means whether a team has used up all their timeouts or has a couple of timeouts left in regulation, each one will have just two timeouts to use in an overtime period. 

The coach’s challenge, however, does not reset at the end of regulation. So if a team has already used it during regulation, they’ll have none left in overtime.   


Team fouls also reset after the regulation buzzer sounds. However, because of the protracted playing time, it takes fewer fouls before a team is placed in the penalty. To be specific, a team can only commit three team fouls before their opponent automatically shoots penalty free throws after each subsequent foul for the rest of the period. 

The final two-minute-penalty foul rule, however, also applies. This means even if a team hasn’t reached the foul quota yet, the other team is automatically awarded free throws after committing just one team foul. 

How Often Does NBA Overtime Actually Happen_ How Often Does NBA Overtime Actually Happen? 

Overtime can lead to nail-biting drama or a swift ending as one team sprints ahead of the other. In a way, overtimes are when players are at their most competitive. The final result is decided by their performance in that particular period, regardless of how they performed during regulation. 

During this brief period of extra play, strategies for overtime tend to be more focused on playing solid defense rather than running wild on offense. Because of this, overtimes are typically when the purest form of basketball is played. 

In any case, teams must stay aggressive and keep fighting until the final buzzer sounds! 

So, as a fan or a student of the game, you may be wondering how often overtimes happen in the NBA. Luckily for us, someone did the data collection and number crunching and came up with about 6% or roughly seventy to seventy-five overtime periods in a season. 

However, since there can be more than one overtime period in an NBA game, the total number of overtime periods played per season can get slightly higher. 

2 Most Overtimes in NBA Finals 2 Most Overtimes in NBA Finals 

There’s no doubt that any game played in the NBA Finals Series is exciting. The best of the East versus the best in the West will undoubtedly be an exciting matchup, especially with championship rings on the line. 

But some Finals games are just more exciting than others. And overtime games at this juncture of the playoffs are often some of the most thrilling games to watch or be a part of. 

Here are some of the games with the most overtime periods in NBA finals history:  

1993 Finals: Game 3 Phoenix Suns vs. Chicago Bulls (3 Overtimes) 

Who could forget the absolute electricity of the crowd during this game? It was the tail end of the Bull’s epic first three-peat, and Michael Jordan and his crew were all still at the peak of their powers. 

However, the Suns were hungry, with Charles Barkley leading the way. Barkley scored twenty-four big points while his teammates, Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson, scored twenty-eight and twenty-five, respectively. 

However, Jordan was in no mood to give the game away and scored forty-four points. On the other hand, Pippen had a twenty-six-point game, while BJ Armstrong gave a strong twenty-one-point performance.  

The game ended 129-121 in favor of Phoenix

1976 Finals: Game 5 Boston Celtics vs. Phoenix Suns (3 Overtimes) 

After a loss to the Washington Bullets in the Finals just a year before, the Boston Celtics were hungry for a win in 1976. So, they upped the level of competitiveness that year, which saw them crowned as the champions for that season. 

Their final hurdle was the Phoenix Suns, spearheaded by NBA Legend Paul Westphal. Rick Barry would later say that the game was the most exciting ever in the history of the NBA.  

With John Havlicek and Jojo White’s impressive performance, Boston won with a slim 128-126 victory. With three overtimes, it qualifies as the longest game in NBA history played in a Finals series. 

2 Most Overtimes in NBA Playoff Series 2 Most Overtimes in NBA Playoff Series 

While the Finals is where the competition is at the highest level, the playoffs are undoubtedly highly competitive too. In the NBA, even the 8th seed team can beat a 1st seed team in the first round to get to the Finals. So it’s only quite natural that some of the most exciting overtimes are played during the playoffs. 

2019 Western Conference Semifinals: Game 6 Portland TrailBlazers vs. Denver Nuggets (4 Overtimes) 

Blazers vs. Nuggets game takes the award for most overtimes in NBA playoff series. The Blazers won with a 119-108 lead

With the series on the line, Damian Lillard and the Blazers needed to win badly and they came up to bat in a big way. The Blazer’s star guard scored thirty-two big points against the future 2021 NBA MVP in Nikola Jokic. 

1953 Eastern Division Semifinals: Game 2 Syracuse Nationals at Boston Celtics (4 Overtimes)

In a record-breaking performance, Bob Cousy scored fifty points with thirty-two of them coming from the charity stripe in this historic game. He also played sixty-six minutes of the game in a stunning quadruple overtime match. 

2 Longest Overtime Games in NBA History  2 Longest Overtime Games in NBA History  

Of course, the regular season can also spawn some competitive multi-overtime games. In fact, the longest game in NBA history was a regular season game between the Indianapolis Olympians and the Rochester Royals in 1951 with six overtimes. However, it was a relatively low-scoring game because of the absence of the shot clock. 

It’s important to note that, while it’s not quite as long as the 1951 game, the 1989 regular season match between the Minneapolis Bucks and Seattle Supersonics resulted in a five-overtime game with a 155-154 win for the Bucks

Wrapping Things Up: What is the Longest Overtime in NBA History? 

When it comes to professional basketball, one of the most exciting parts of the game can be overtime periods. During these extra stretches, players find themselves in a high-stakes situation where they must play at their absolute best in order to come out on top.  

These periods pull out all the stops, with passes and shots becoming more aggressive and players diving after balls that they might otherwise leave untouched.  

Coaches also have a chance to call plays that may break open the game or give their team an advantage over the opposing squad. Whether you are a die-hard fan or simply a student of the game, there is no denying that overtime periods can be some of the most exhilarating parts of any basketball matchup.  

Even the longest overtime in basketball history – which lasted for an astounding six overtimes or a total of 78 minutes – was filled with tactical precision, thrill, and suspenseful moments that kept fans on the edge of their seats until the very end. So if you’re looking for some time well spent and some truly epic sporting moments, watching an NBA game might quench your thirst. Or maybe just catch some of these past games on your local basketball channel for some surefire overtime excitement.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected?

Getting into the All-Star game is no simple feat. For some players, it may take several seasons of high-level play to get the nod. However, other exceptional talents come into the league with so much...

Read More
What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

Basketball is a world of its own with unique terms or jargon, in and out of the court. Through the years, more terms have been developed to represent specific things about the sport, and understanding...

Read More

Get our top basketball tips to become a better baller

Enter your email to get access to our best tips for success.