Basketball Timeouts

Chapter 2.6

Is it possible to stop the clocks in basketball? With a special ability called a timeout, a team can stop the clocks from ticking in basketball.


We've already learned about the game clock and shot clock in basketball and how they keep track of time in the period and how long a team can have possession of the ball respectively.

In this tutorial, we will learn about timeouts in basketball or special abilities for coaches and players to stop the clocks at will.


Timeouts are special calls a team can use to temporarily stop the game clock and shot clock from ticking.

Rookie Road Basketball Timeouts Image

PRO TIP: The shot clock does not reset after a timeout is called.

How Many In Regulation?

So how many timeouts does a team get during regulation? This depends on the level of play (youth, college, pro).

In professional (NBA) basketball, teams are given eight (8) timeouts, six (6) that last 100-seconds and two (2) that last 20-seconds each for use during the entire game.

In college (NCAA) basketball, teams are given six (6) timeouts, four (4) that last 75-seconds and two (2) that last 30-seconds for use during the entire game.

Rookie Road Basketball Regulation Timeouts Image

How Many In Overtime?

In professional (NBA) basketball, teams are given two (2) 60-second timeouts for each overtime period.

In college (NCAA) basketball, a team's timeouts are carried over from regulation. In addition they receive one (1) 75-second timeout for each overtime period.

Rookie Road Basketball Overtime Timeouts Image

Calling A Timeout

Anyone can call a timeout during a basketball game. However, if a team calls a timeout and their team doesn't have any left it is a technical foul. We will learn more about technical fouls in future chapters.

A timeout can only be called:

  • when the ball is 'dead'
  • by the team with possession of the ball

The team on defense without the ball can't call a timeout.

Timeout Strategies

A team will use a timeout for one of the following reasons:

  1. to change the play design
  2. to make a player substitution
  3. to ice a player

Changing The Play Design

A team may decide to change the play design if they see the opposing team positioned in a specific way. Calling a timeout will give them time to regroup and change strategy. We will learn about basketball strategies in future chapters.


Basketball allows for unlimited substitutions when the ball is 'dead'. A coach may need to call a timeout to substitute a player if a different player is better suited for the play design. We will learn more about substitutions and the rules around them in future chapters.

Icing A Player

Icing a player is a technique used to get a mental edge over the opposing team. Imagine the score is very close and there is little time remaining on the game clock. If a team calls a timeout just before the upcoming play, they may cause the opposing team to make a trivial mistake costing them the game.

The best example of this is called icing the free throw shooter. Just before a free throw is made, a team will call a timeout for the possibility that the free throw shooter will make a mistake and miss the foul shot.

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