How Many Overtimes Can A Basketball Game Have? (Find Out Here)

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Going into overtime at the end of regulation in basketball is often exciting and nerve-wracking for the teams, coaches, and fans alike. Things can get pretty intense as the game progresses through more overtime periods– but how many overtime can a basketball game have?

Theoretically, a basketball game could have an infinite number of overtimes! As long as the game remains tied, overtime periods will be played until a winner emerges! This is because no basketball game can end in a tie, so the overtime periods must continue until there is a clear winner.

Let’s get on the court and understand how the overtime rules apply to the NBA and college basketball, the number of OT periods in a basketball game, and how the OT periods differ from the NBA to the NCAA.

Why Is There Overtime In Basketball?

Overtime (OT) is common in most sports, including soccer, where it’s known as extra time, and of course, football, but the main difference between basketball and other sports is that there has to be a winner at the end of a basketball game.

Aside from playoff games, there can be ties in the NFL, but in the NBA and NCAA, there has to be a definitive result, and this is where the OT rules come into play.

NBA Vs. NCAA Overtime Periods

In the NBA, the total regular game time is 48 minutes with four quarters of 12 minutes each, while the NCCA games have two halves of twenty minutes each for 40 minutes.

The overtime periods in the NCAA and NBA are the same at five minutes each, and OT will be initiated if the scores are tied at the end of regular time.

How Are Overtime Periods In Basketball Started?

Each overtime period begins with a jump ball, and, like the jump ball in regular time, it is used to give both teams an equal chance for possession.

The designated jumpers will try and tip the ball back to their side, and they are not allowed to hold or grab the ball but have to try and get it back to their teammates to continue the play.

Is There Sudden Death In Basketball?

Because there has to be a clear winner in every game in the NBA and NCAA, and no game can end in a tie, there has to be a way to end the game with a winner. Unlike other sports, professional or college basketball offers no sudden death option.

Basketball games have overtime and double overtime that determine a winner.

However, one league in basketball uses the sudden death rule. The NBA Summer League, or the Las Vegas Summer League as it is known, does use the sudden death rule where overtime and double overtime have been used up, with no clear winner emerging after these OT periods have been played.

How Many Timeouts Are In Each Overtime Period?

Timeouts are a common strategic break that allows players and teams to change play plans, ice, or substitute players. In overtime in the NBA, each team gets two sixty-second timeouts, but in the NCAA, only one timeout is allowed.

What Is The Bonus In Overtime?

The bonus is a penalty situation where a team has been fouled five or more times during overtime; that team is in a bonus. For every subsequent foul committed, the fouled team gets two free throws.

In the NBA, this rule only applies to fouls committed in the overtime period. In the NCAA, fouls committed in the second period of regular time will carry over to overtime, and they will be in the bonus in overtime.

What Is The Most Number Of Overtime Periods Ever In The NBA?

The highest number of overtime periods played in an NBA game is six, which was played in 1951 between the Indianapolis Olympians and the Rochester Royals.

The game was tied at the end of regular time, and there were a mammoth six periods of overtime played before the Olympians eventually won the match by 75-73.

Another marathon game was played two years before the Olympians saw the Anderson Packers and the Syracuse Nationals contest a  game that lasted five overtime periods. The Nationals won that encounter by 125-123.

More recently, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Seattle Supersonics became only the third teams to take a game to five overtime periods, which occurred in 1989 during the regular season. With stoic defense, the Supersonics held out until the final OT period, losing the game by a single point of 155-154!

In the modern era, there have been two four overtime games played, one in 2017 and one in 2019, each time the Atlanta Hawks featured.

In 2017, the Atlanta Hawks topped the New York Knicks by three points in the fourth overtime period, winning it 142-139 at home, which sent the crowd into a frenzy of celebration!

Two years later, the same Atlanta Hawks were involved in another epic game, this time with NBA legends the Chicago Bulls. The teams battled for four overtime periods until the Bulls switched up a gear in the final OT period and outscored the Hawks 13-6, winning the game by 168-161!

What’s The Most Number Of Overtimes In An NCAA Game?

The record number of overtime in an NCAA game is seven, and this has occurred three times. The first game that saw seven OT periods was in 1956 between Black Hills vs. Yankton, in 1981 between Bradley and Cincinnati, and most recently in 2010 between Skidmore and South Vermont.

Remember that an NCAA game is 40 minutes, and seven OT periods of five minutes are five minutes short of a full game!


The overtime rule in basketball certainly makes games more exciting. While no NBA game has seen more than six overtime periods and no NCAA game has had more than seven, with no sudden death option in basketball, there could well be games in the future that break those records!


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