How Long are Quarters in the NBA?

Are you curious about how long quarters are in NBA? Why does the NBA use 12-minute quarters instead of 10 to 15 minutes like other sports leagues? Here’s the guide to help inform you.

Why are there 12 minutes in a basketball quarter? In the history of the league, the NBA has always had four, twelve-minute quarters. Taking the college basketball rules as a basis, the decision of the NBA to go with 12-minute quarters was ideal for a basketball event to last overall for about 2 hours. They tested and found that a paying spectator can watch a basketball game in one hour and 20 minutes. Every league is unique, you may argue the NBA established its own identity in contrast to the pattern of basketball games played at the college level. College Basketball consists of 2 halves of 15-20 minutes each. Let’s delve a little deeper into the reason the NBA decided to go with 12 minute quarters. 

The History Of Basketball

The Basketball Association of America was the name of the NBA (National Basketball Association) prior to NBA formation in 1946. After merging with the American Basketball League three years later, the league’s birth happened in New York and resulted in a name change to the NBA.

There were always 12 minutes quarters in the NBA games, and it is thought that this was the ideal length of time for fans and basketball teams to compete against one another. Teams were playing their 60 game seasons during that time. The American Basketball Association (ABA), was established in 1967 and used the same 12-minute quarter length as the NBA. In 1976, the ABA would join with the NBA. Because the rules of both leagues were quite similar, players had no trouble adjusting to them.

The ABA had previously put in place a 3-point line in its league, that the NBA had delayed. It was in 1979, the NBA would finally implement the 3-point line, which was twenty-three feet and nine inches long. The distance was identical to what we have now, but the “25 footer” was the name given to it. 

So why are Basketball Quarters 12 Minutes Long…

Originally the NBA copied the rules of the college game, since they had little time to spare when they were established. College basketball is now and has been successful in the past. Although college basketball would then switch from 15 minute to  20 minute quarters, which then appeared to be a significantly superior format. It’s worth noting that the NBA wanted to establish its identity as a national-level basketball league. At one point they came to the conclusion that a college game is simply not long enough for a paying spectator to feel satisfied at the paid event. At 12 minutes each quarter, they would choose to make four quarters instead of two halves and discovered that this would allow the typical viewer 2 hours to 2 1/2 hours of viewing time. So fans could rest assured about getting their money’s worth.

In a 24-minute game, adding three minutes to each quarter creates a total of one additional quarter (30 minutes) in the overall duration. Each quarter that lasts an extra 15 minutes would give us an additional 12 minutes of action and almost another quarter of play in the overall length. If we add a full minute each quarter for every four quarters, we’re still looking at 4 more minutes per game. We are all well aware of how tired players become when the game lasts into overtime.

I maintain that the NBA should reduce the number of games in a season to 72. More players are getting injured at a higher rate, and they’re becoming stronger and more powerful. Players are now stronger and more athletic than they’ve ever been, but there are more injuries as a consequence. Aside from gaming events, it looks like the NBA got everything right with 12 minutes per quarter, which seems to be just right for enjoyable viewership and player endurance for optimum performance.

When the ABA began in 1967, it used the NBA’s four 12-minute quarters as its model. The finest form of compliment is copying. It’s surprising they didn’t take a different approach to differentiate themselves from the pack. They did have a three-point line, which the NBA did not adopt at the time, attracting fans to the ABA as a result.

The Ratio of Fouls to Minutes

Splitting five fouls into 40 minutes of game time gives you 0.8 points per minute. Every 8 minutes of playtime, a player will incur a foul in international games. In FIBA, NCAA, and even some high school basketball states in the United States, quarters are 10 minutes long and halves are 20 minutes each, for a total of 40 minutes. The exception to this rule is that most high schools use 8-minute periods.

If a player commits 6 fouls, then NBA declared them faulty and must sit out the rest of the game under NBA rules. 8 minutes of playing session also give you 1 foul if you divide 6 into 48 minutes. This is why the NBA increased their foul count to six instead of five or more, otherwise, there will be more players fouling out quickly.

Duration Of Breaks Between Quarters


The length of the break between quarters varies from quarter to quarter, but it is typically around 70 seconds. The duration in quarters one and two or 3 and 4 is about a minute and a half. In the NBA, halftime lasts 15 minutes.


In the middle of quarters one and two or three and 4, there are two minutes of rest. This also includes the time between the fourth quarter and the extra time. 15 minutes is the standard halftime in FIBA.


The NCAA has a 15-minute rest between halves. Because there are no quarters, there are no rests between quarters.

Is There any other League with Twelve-Minute Quarters?

The NBA and WNBA are the only organizations that regulate four 12-minute quarters. Four quarters exist in various leagues, such as high school and FIBA, but they’re only 10 minutes each. It appears that FIBA will eventually mirror the NBA by adopting a four-quarter format.

Rules of FBIA govern the Olympics of Basketball and World Cup both. It features 10 minutes per quarter during international play. Bear in mind that if the NBA was to transition to 10 minutes per quarter, scoring would plummet.

Hopefully, this article offered more understanding about the choice for the NBA quarter’s length.

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