The games with the most overtimes in NBA history (the longest NBA games ever)

It’s not unusual for an NBA game to end up tied after regulation. Overtimes doesn’t happen every night, but it’s not a rare occasion either.

For example, in the 2014-15 NBA regular season, there were 152 total overtime games  — that’s approximately 5 overtime games spread across all 30 NBA teams. So when the score is tied after regulation, a five-minute extra period is added to the game to determine a winner.

And if the game is tied after the first overtime, well, another overtime is added. Basically, overtimes will be added until a winner emerges. There’s no “sudden death” or limit on overtimes an NBA game can have. This got us researching the longest games in NBA history, specifically, what’s the NBA record for most overtimes and most minutes in one game?

NBA’s Longest Games and Most Overtimes

We tracked down the NBA games with the most overtimes in the history and to get past two or three overtimes, there usually has to be multiple big shots and buzzer beaters for a regular match to to turn into a basketball marathon. The chance of several big shots being hit in one game is slim.

NBA Games with Most Overtimes
1 6 78 1951 Indianapolis Olympians vs. Rochester Royals
2 5 73 1949 Syracuse Nationals vs. Anderson Packers
2 5 73 1989 Milwaukee Bucks vs. Seattle Supersonics
4 4 68 1954 Boston Celtics vs. Syracuse Nationals
4 4 68 1974 Portland Trail Blazers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
4 4 68 1980 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
4 4 68 1982 Atlanta Hawks vs. Seattle Supersonics
4 4 68 1984 Chicago Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers
4 4 68 1987 Golden State Warriors vs New Jersey Nets
4 4 68 1997 Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers
4 4 68 2012 Atlanta Hawks vs. Utah Jazz
4 4 68 2017 New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks
4 4 68 2019 Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks

The above list is only for regular season games, click here for the longest NBA Playoff games with the most OTs in NBA history.

Surprisingly, only one of the games in the above list are among the highest-scoring games in NBA history – that game being the crazy yet meaningless Bulls-Hawks game in 2019.

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It makes sense that the longest game in NBA history was seven decades ago when baskets didn’t come as easily as they do today. The game with the most overtimes in NBA history was:

#1. The Indianapolis Olympians vs. Rochester Royals, January 6, 1951 (6 overtimes)

On January 6, 1951, Indianapolis Olympians had a match against Rochester Royals that turned out to be the longest game in NBA history.

After six extra periods, the final score was just 75-73 in favor of the Olympians. Indianapolis Olympians led a 20-10 score after a quarter however Rochester Royals fill in the four point deficit and sending the game to an overtime time period. That resulted to 12-8 score in the fourth quarter. The two teams scored two points in the first overtime however failing the score on the second period. You can read more about this six overtime thriller at the Indianapolis Star.

#2. The Syracuse Nationals vs. Anderson Packers, November 4, 1949 (5 overtimes)

The game between basketball teams Syracuse Nationals and Anderson Packers on November 4 of 1949 was the second longest NBA game recorded. The game incurred five overtimes and the Syracuse Nationals won over Anderson Packers in a closely fought game, as NBA fans would point out, with a score of 125-123. The Anderson packers were a force to reckon with starting the contest with a 6-2 and had a lead of 11 points ahead after two quarters but Johnny Macknowski, Dolph Schayes and Ray Corley led a big comeback on the second half of the game. After several overtime periods finally Syracuse Nationals beat the Anderson Packers especially led by Frankie Brian and his 18 points.

#2.The Milwaukee Bucks vs. Seattle Supersonics, November 9, 1989 (5 overtimes)

The Milwaukee Bucks’ game with Seattle Supersonics on November 9, 1989 was the second game in NBA league history garnering the overtime 5 times. The game had an even score of 105-105 and it was deliberated in overtimes which turn out that the Milwaukee Bucks team won over the Seattle Supersonics.

The final score was 155-154. This is the most recent game that has lasted for at least five overtime games in NBA history. The Bucks made a lead of six points going into the final twelve minutes after having a tight first half. The game was pushed by Dale Ellis who garnered 53 points and 7 rebounds while the Seattle Supersonics was successful sending the game to overtime. The Milwaukee Bucks ended the game on the fifth and final period led by Ricky Pierce who brought 36 points. Here’s an oral history of the game.

NBA games that went into four overtimes

#3. Boston Celtics vs. Syracuse Nationals, March 21, 1953 (4 overtimes) Dated March 21 1953 when Boston Celtics smashed Syracuse Nationals scoring 111-105 having 4 overtimes’ during the game. The Celtics also defeated the Syracuse Nationals during the East Division Semifinals game that same year and was recorded the longest playoff game ever in NBA history.

#3. Portland Trail Blazers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, October 18, 1974 (4 overtimes) Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers had a game match on October 18 of 1974. The game ended and Portland Trail blazers won with the final score of 131-129. The game had 4 overtimes’.

#3. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Lakers, January 29, 1980 (4 overtimes) On January 29, 1980, a game involving the Cleveland Cavalier and Los Angeles Lakers finished with four overtime periods in favor of the Cavaliers. The Los Angeles Lakers actually went on competing with the Championships. However, the Cavaliers lost five times straight.

#3. Atlanta Hawks vs. Seattle Supersonics, February 19, 1982 (4 overtimes) The Atlanta Hawks bested Seattle Supersonics which happened on February 19, 1982 having garnered a score of 127-122. The Atlanta Hawks have played a total of two quadruple overtimes all in all in their NBA franchise history.

#3. Chicago Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers, November 4, 1984 (4 overtimes) The 1984 game was the first quadruple game for the Blazers since 1974-1975 season. They won during that game but they were bested by Bulls with just a one point difference of 156-155.

#3. Golden State Warriors vs New Jersey Nets, February 1, 1987 (4 overtimes) A match between the Golden State Warriors versus New Jersey Nets was played and was the seventh quadruple game in the league history which happened on February 1 1987. The game ended in favor of the Golden State Warriors with the final score of 150-147.

#3. Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers, November 14, 1997 (4 overtimes)
This game is the third overall quadruple overtime game in the history of Portland Blazers NBA franchise. This match happened against the  Phoenix Suns on November 14 1997. The Phoenix Suns won this game 140-139 after four overtimes.

This four overtime game was not only one of the longest games in NBA history, but also featured another rare occurrence of having three teammates score more than 30 points in one game — the Blazers Isaiah Rider scored 35 points, Brian Grant added 34 and Arvydas Sabonis put up 31 points. You can check the box score on

#3. Atlanta Hawks vs. Utah Jazz, March 25, 2012 (4 overtimes) The ninth quadruple game in the league history of NBA happened on March 25, 2012 between Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz. The event happened in Philips Arena and the duration of the game was dragged into the fourth overtime. It was the Atlanta Hawks who won over the Utah Jazz outscoring them with 139-133..

#3. New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks, January 29, 2017 (4 overtimes) The Hawks prevailed over the New York Knicks 142-139 in a four overtime thriller. Carmelo Anthony scored 45  points

#3. Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks, March 01 2019 (4 overtimes) The Bulls took down the Atlanta Hawks, whom seem to love four overtime games behind another rare occurrence: three teammates that scored 30+ points in the same game. Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter scored 47, 31, and 31 points in the win while rookie Trae Young scored a career high 49 points in the loss. Combining for 329 points, the game turned out to be one of the highest scoring games in NBA history.

Though the NBA merged with the ABA, the games/stats aren’t “officially” counted. If they were, the list of “most points in NBA game combined” would include a game between the the San Diego Conquistadors and  New York Nets on February 14, 1975. That game would go into four overtimes and Julius Erving scored 63 points. This bout between the Conquistadors and the New York Nets was one of the highest scoring game in the history of the ABA. San Diego defeated the Nets with the score of 176-166 in a game.

Unless you count the “unofficial” ABA game above, going into four or five  overtimes doesn’t mean that they’re automatically the highest-scoring games in NBA history. None of the games on this list are on the other.

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