How long is a basketball match? Duration, match facts, and all the details

How long is a basketball match? Duration, match facts, and all the details

Samuel Lisubila
October 2, 2022 at 10:28 AM

Since James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891, the Canadian-American intended it to be a less injury-prone sport than football and set out rules that would later be modified with the continuity and development of the game. With players such as Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Stephen Curry said to have changed the game, there are many factors also considered to have done that, including the match duration.

How long is a basketball match?
LeBron James of Team LeBron dunks the ball in the first half during the 2022 NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on 20 February 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu
Source: Getty Images

Since the National Basketball Association's establishment, rule changes have been implemented from the original 13 to over 100 rules. However, the spirit and principles of the original rules are still in effect today. Below are some match facts and all the details you need to know about the game of basketball in 2022 and how the changes affected the game.

Profile summary

Full name


Highest governing body

International Basketball Federation (FIBA)

First played

21 December 1891 Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S



Team members

5 per side






Indoor court (mainly) or outdoor court (streetball)

Country or region



1904 and 1924 Summer Olympics, Part of Summer Olympics since 1936



Rules of basketball

Rules of basketball
The referee blows the whistle while standing in court. Photo modified by author
Source: Getty Images

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Like any other organized sport, basketball has a unique set of rules that the players must follow to establish personnel, penalties, and gameplay guidelines. Below are some insights into the basic rules of basketball that have been established, approved, and implemented as of 2022 according to the top basketball league, NBA.

1. Players, substitutes, teams, and teammates

In 1900, five players aside became the standard number, and players substituted were not allowed to re-enter the game. However, in 1945, the substitutes became unlimited. Initially, coaches were not allowed to address players during the game, but that was abolished in 1949 when players were addressed during a timeout. Players are also disqualified from the competition after their sixth foul.

2. Shot clock and time limits

Match duration
Detail of the backboard and Tissot shot clock during an NBA game at Footprint Center on 24 January 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen
Source: Getty Images

As of 2001, teams can advance past the centre line within eight seconds of gaining possession. In 1936, the three-second rule was also implemented, preventing opponents from remaining near their opponents' baskets for more than 3 seconds.

The shot clock was introduced in the NBA in 1954 to increase the speed of play. It displays a countdown that gives opponents 24 seconds to attempt a shot, which resets after the ball hits the basketball rim or the backboard. It was then reduced to the ball only touching the rim.

3. Fouls, free throws, and violations

Match facts
Dearica Hamby #5 of the Las Vegas Aces fouls Jonquel Jones #35 of the Connecticut Sun in the 2022 WNBA Playoffs finals at Michelob ULTRA Arena on 13 September 2022, in Las Vegas. Photo: Ethan Miller
Source: Getty Images

Dribbling was introduced in basketball back in 1901. Before that, players were only allowed to dribble once but could not shoot after dribbling. In 1909, dribbling became the continuous passage of the ball, allowing more than one bounce, and the player was allowed to shoot.

Travelling (running with the ball ceased) was considered a violation in 1922, meaning that the only penalty was the loss of possession. The jump ball is practical once a closely guarded player withheld the ball from play for five seconds and has since become a violation by the ball carrier.

Striking the ball with a fist has also become an offence. Goaltending became a violation in 1944, while offensive goaltending became a violation in 1958.

Free throws were among the first to be introduced with the invention of basketball. If a fouled player makes a successful field goal, he is awarded one free throw. If the field goal is unsuccessful, two free throws and three free throws if it is a three-point attempt. If a player is fouled when not in the act of shooting or fouled in a loose ball, the penalty varies with the style of play and the fouls accumulated by the opposing team.

All the details of a basketball match
Stephen Curry, #30 of the Golden State Warriors, shoots a free throw during the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals at FedExForum on 11 May 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo: Andy Lyons
Source: Getty Images

If the player's team foul is four or less in the quarter, the opponents earn possession, but on the fifth foul, the fouled player gets two free throws.

A charge is a personal foul that occurs once the offensive player runs into the defender with no attempt to stop or change possession. The defender must establish legal guarding positioning in the offensive player's path. This results in an offensive charge, and a turnover is initiated. The defender, however, cannot draw the foul in the restricted zone (part of the floor marked by a semi-circular line drawn directly below the basket)

A blocking foul occurs when the defender gains an advantage over the attacker through illegal positioning in a shooting motion. The foul is often called when the defender is in the restricted zone.

4. Equipment

Match facts
The inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, stands in a field carrying a ball and a basket. Photo: Bettman
Source: Getty Images

Basketball is a simple game that requires a basketball, a hoop, and a flat surface. The number and type of equipment also increase with the skill level increases.

Initially, the ball used was similar to ordinary association football (soccer). Still, later on, Spalding took the initiative to make the first official ball in the 19th century at the behest of James Naismith. It has since then produced basketballs to date (2022).

5. Officiating and procedures

In the game's first stages, officials included one umpire to judge fouls and one referee to judge the ball. The NBA, however, uses different terminologies. The lead official is the Crew chief, while the others are referees.

The use of video evidence and instant replay have also been permitted for timing, the value of a field goal, shot clock violations, and unsportsmanlike conduct that might result in flagrant fouls. In addition, coaches are allowed to challenge calls by the referees.

How many quarters are in basketball?
Referee Bill Kennedy #55 signals during a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz at Moda Center on 10 April 2022, in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Abbie Parr
Source: Getty Images

The centre jump ball was initially used to determine ball possession after every field goal. It was, however, eliminated, and the non-scoring team would inbound the ball from their side. The jump ball was still used to start the game, after every period, and after a held ball. In 1975, the NBA came up with the quarter-possession system where the team winning the jump shot would possess the ball at the start and fourth quarter, while the second and third periods are for the losing group.

In 1976, a rule was introduced that allowed players to advance the ball to the centre line following any legal timeout in the game's final two minutes.

How long is a basketball match?

A basketball match is divided into four quarters. Each quarter lasts 12 minutes in the NBA, adding up to 48 minutes. However, breaks, timeouts, and other factors cause a whole game to go upto two and a half hours or three.

How do you score in basketball?

How do you score in basketball?
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets is fouled by Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter at American Airlines Center on 6 May 2021 in Dallas, Texas. Photo by Ronald Martinez
Source: Getty Images

The points scored by a player depend on his position when they release the ball.

3-pointer - The highest number of points scored when the player is outside the three-point line.

2-pointer - Any basket scored inside the three-point line

Free throw (1 point) - An open, free shot is given to the opposition team after they are fouled. It is worth a point.

How many quarters are in basketball?

The NBA has four 12-minute quarters adding up to 48 minutes. They play one way for two quarters, then the opposite side for the last two quarters. After that, there is a 2-minute period where the teams take a break between the first and second quarters, a 15-minute halftime after the second quarter, and 2 minutes in the final break. Coaches can call two-one-minute timeouts in the first half and three in the final half.

How many quarters are in basketball?
Devin Booker, #1 of the Phoenix Suns, attempts a three-point shot against the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on 6 July 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen
Source: Getty Images

Basketball has evolved to be one of the top sports in the world. It has over 2.2 billion fans globally, with a 4% increase in fans annually, the most significant increase in major professional sports, according to the Nielsen Sports Sponsor link.

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Samuel Lisubila photo
Samuel Lisubila