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Basketball Game Structure

How long does a basketball game last? What is halftime and overtime? Get ready to learn about the structure of a basketball game.

Game Format

All basketball games have the same basic structure - halves and quarters of game time.

  • Every basketball game begins with a singing of the national anthem
  • Basketball games consist of quarters and halves
  • There are four quarters and two halves in an NBA game
  • There are two halves in a college basketball game
  • College basketball games do not have quarters


The two halves of a basketball game are called:

  1. First Half
  2. Second Half

Every basketball game, regardless of level, will have two halves in the game.

NBA Basketball Quarters

In the NBA, Each half is made up of two quarters for a grand total of four quarters.

The four quarters in an NBA basketball game are called:

  1. First Quarter
  2. Second Quarter
  3. Third Quarter
  4. Fourth Quarter

College Basketball Halves

There are no quarters in college basketball. Instead, there are only two halves.

PRO TIP: The NCAA has recently had discussions in 2017 of possibly changing the game structure of a college basketball. The NCAA is exploring using four 10 minute quarters instead of two 20 minute halves.


Together, these halves and quarters of game time are called regulation.

Basketball Regulation

The amount of time in each half and quarter during regulation differs based on the level of play.

In the NBA, each quarter lasts 12 minutes. In college basketball, each half lasts 20 minutes

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