Generally, there are four quarters in a basketball game, though the length varies based on the level of play and sometimes on individual leagues. NBA Games can go longer than four quarters, which turns into overtime when there is a tie after the fourth quarter concludes. There are two halves for college basketball instead of four quarters of play.
So how many quarters are in each level: the NBA, the WNBA, college, and high school? Why will you see the clock stopping during these quarters? And what happens when an NBA game is in a tie after the fourth quarter?
Here is the breakdown of how many quarters are in basketball, college basketball games, and more.
How Many Quarters are in an NBA Game?
The NBA follows the same setup as most other basketball leagues: four individual NBA quarters are in each professional basketball game. However, the NBA has the longest quarters of any league or level. Each of the four quarters in an NBA basketball game lasts 12 minutes. These 12-minute quarters add up to a total of 48 minutes of game time.
However, the game clock often stops during the game, resulting in much more time spent in the stadium than 48 minutes. When you factor in TV commercials, halftime, timeouts, and any other delay of game moments, most NBA games take about 2.5 hours to complete 48 minutes of action.
How Many Quarters are in a WNBA Game?
The WNBA has the same number of quarters as the NBA. The only difference between the two leagues is the length of the quarters. As opposed to the 12-minute quarters an NBA basketball team must endure, professional women’s basketball teams play 10-minute quarters. The 10-minute quarters then turn into 40 minutes of official action.
However, just like in the NBA, the clock will stop multiple times per quarter. Stops include timeouts, injuries, TV commercials, halftime, and more.
How Many Quarters are in a College Basketball Game?
There are no quarters in men’s college NCAA basketball games. Instead, there are only two halves of play. There are two 20-minute halves in these games, which equals 40 minutes of gameplay for anyone playing men’s college basketball.
When it comes to women’s college basketball, they play by the same rules as the WNBA as far as quarters. This league plays four 10-minute quarters, resulting in 40 minutes of playing time. The rule change for moving women’s college basketball to four quarters occurred in 2015.
How Many Quarters are in a High School Basketball Game?
High school basketball players can also expect to play four separate quarters, though each of their quarters will only last eight minutes. That equals a total of 32 minutes of playing basketball for each game.
However, just like in NBA, WNBA, and college basketball games, there are numerous reasons why the clock stops. Therefore, completing the full 32 minutes of gameplay will take much longer due to all the stoppages.
Why Does the Clock Stop During the Quarters in Basketball?
The basketball clock keeps counting down until there is a stop in action. There are numerous reasons why stops occur that will result in the official game clock stopping.
- After every score, the clock stops until the other team passes the ball in bounds and touches it. As a note, sometimes a team will let the basketball roll on the court so it doesn’t take time off the clock via an inbound pass.
- An injury occurs during the game.
- A foul occurs that results in the referee stopping the action. If the foul results in a free throw, then the clock continues to be paused
- The basketball goes out of bounds.
- Timeouts from either team
- TV commercial breaks/media timeouts
- Any issue that occurs on the court/basketball hoop
- The halftime break. It is worth noting that the clock does not run during the halftime break, but there is a pause in the action before the clock resumes.
What Happens if an NBA Game is Tied After Four Quarters?
Since NBA games cannot end in a tie, there had to be some way to avoid this situation. If there is a tie at the end of regulation, the two teams will play an extra period, known as “overtime.” This overtime period will last five minutes, starting with the two teams jumping for the ball.
If the two teams are still tied at the end of the overtime period, another one will start. This process will continue as long as it is necessary to determine the winner of the game. There is no max limitation to the number of overtime periods that can take place during an NBA basketball game since a winner must be determined.
The record for the most overtime periods played in one NBA game is held by the Indianapolis Olympians and the Rochester Royals in 1951. These two teams played six overtime periods before the Olympians finally left the court with the win.
Conclusion: How Many Quarters in Basketball?
Though most basketball games consist of four separate quarters, there are exceptions to that rule. One exception is men’s college basketball, which plays two halves instead. The length of these quarters varies depending on the level of play. Though there is a specified regulation time associated with each game, there are many different factors that can make the length of the game much longer.
There are no ties in basketball, so teams must play an overtime period if there is a tie. There is no limit to how many overtime periods can be played, though the current record is six overtime periods.
Also, it is worth noting that there will be breaks in the action during a basketball game. Those breaks require the game clock to stop, so completing a basketball game takes closer to two hours.