The Epic Battle: A Look Back at the Longest Overtime in NBA History

Key Takeaway: The NBA has seen some epic overtime games throughout its history, with the longest game taking place between the Rochester Royals and Indianapolis Olympians in 1951, lasting six overtimes with a final score of 75-73. The Celtics hold the record for the most multi-overtime games in NBA playoff history, showcasing the thrill and intensity of overtime in basketball.


Can you think of anything better in sport than overtime? I personally enjoy it more when it is two teams I do not follow, that way I can enjoy the ramped-up competition, without the disappointment of my team losing.

It is, of course, amazing when your team pulls it out in overtime. Basketball is no exception to this rule, as over the course of the NBA’s long illustrious history, there have been plenty of great overtime games.


What is better than free basketball? The NBA overtime rules are pretty simple. If a game ends in a tie, the game will go into overtime. The overtime will consist of one five-minute period.

If it remains tied, the game will keep on going in five-minute intervals until a team outscores the other, pretty basic.

Longest Overtime Game in NBA History

The longest game in NBA history happened about 72 years ago between two teams who are no longer in operation. The game tipped off between the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), and the Indianapolis Olympians.

After four quarter of play, the score was still undecided. So, the game went to overtime. Then another, and another, until six overtimes had been played. What is even crazier is that the score was only 75-73!

One of the best defensive games ever played, and it is just impressive the score was so low considering 78-minutes of basketball had been played.

There have also been two other games that came close to the longest in NBA history, but the Royals vs Olympians game in 1951 is still number one.

In 1949, the Syracuse Nationals faced off against the Anderson Packers. The game went to five overtimes, for 73 minutes. The score was 125-123 Nationals.

The second 73 minute, five-overtime game came in 1989 when the Bucks and Seattle Supersonics came together. The Bucks bested Supersonics 155-154, in one classic of a game. There has not been a five-overtime game since.

Longest Overtime Games in the Modern Era of the NBA

The NBA has had two long overtime games in the past six years. The first of which being between the Atlantic Hawks and the Chicago Bulls in 2019.

The Bulls and Hawks faced off in a regular season game that saw the two teams play and additional 20-minutes of basketball before the Bulls were finally able to pull ahead of the Hawks.

The game came down to a nail-biting 168-161, where the Bulls were able to outscore the Hawks 13-6.

The second game of mention came in 2017, which again featured the Atlanta Hawks, but it had a more favorable outcome for Atlanta. This game featured Carmelo Anthony and Paul Millsap and came to a score of just 142-139, just three points. This game also consisted of four overtimes as well.

NBA Playoff Series with the Most Overtime Games

The NBA playoff series with the most overtimes came in 2009, when the Boston Celtics took on the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Celtics were able to edge the Bulls in game 7 to a score of 109-pp.

But games one, five, and six all had overtime games. The scores of those games were 105-103 Chicago, 121-118 Chicago, and 128-127 for Chicago. Despite losing all three games in overtime, the Celtics were also able to edge it out.

Oddly enough, the Celtics also hold the record for most overtime games in NBA playoff history. The Celtics since inception have played a record 15 multi-overtime games in NBA history. On the other hand, the Lakers, with all of their success, have only played in one.

Longest Playoff Game in NBA History

The Celtics also had one of the longest games in NBA playoff history, tied with the next game I am going to mention. All the way back in 1951, the Celtics faced off against the Syracuse Nationals in the playoffs.

The game went to overtime, four extra quarters and resulted in the Celtics winning 111-105.

Longest Playoff Game in Modern NBA History

In the 2019 NBA Playoffs, the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail blazers squared up for game 3 of their series, and at tip off, no one knew it would become the longest game in 66 years of NBA basketball.

The incredible game went into an astonishing four overtimes, after 48 minutes wasn’t enough to declare a winner. The game became an instant classic for basketball fans, not so much for Nuggets fans.

The Nuggets ended up losing the game after the aforementioned fourth overtime by three points. 140-137.


The NBA is no stranger to some good overtime matchups. It doesn’t happen as often in the modern NBA, whether that is skill or just making its way out as points become more stackable.  When it comes to the longest game in NBA history, the Royals vs Olympians game all the way back in 1951 still hold the record.

There has not been a game to go to more than five-overtimes since 1989 between the Bucks and Supersonics.

The Celtics rule the court when it comes to overtime games, participating in more than any other team in NBA history. Overtime in any sport is very exciting, but overtime in the NBA just has a whole different feeling.

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