NBA Rules & Regulations


The National Basketball Association (NBA) rules and regulations have many similarities to the basketball rules observed at other levels except for some specific differences. Basic rules, such as what constitutes a foul, traveling and palming the basketball, are close or exactly the same as other echelons of the sport. But a regulation NBA court varies from the type of court used at other levels of the game. The timing of an NBA game, the timeout situation, the 24-second shot clock and other aspects of the NBA, all differ from how the game is played at college, high school and the Olympic level.

Regulation NBA court

  • The length of a regulation NBA court is 94 feet and the court is 50 feet wide. The distance of the three-point shot is the key difference in the NBA that sets the league apart from other levels of basketball. The NBA line for three-pointers is 23 feet 9 inches. The free-throw line is the same distance from the basket as elsewhere--15 feet--but the free-throw lane is 16 feet wide.

Length of games

  • An NBA game consists of four quarters that are each 12 minutes long. There is a break of 15 minutes between the two halves of the contest. Overtime in the NBA lasts for five minutes. The game clock at an NBA contest must be able to show tenths of a second when the quarter enters the final minute.

Twenty-Four-second shot clock

  • The offensive team has 24 seconds to take a shot in an NBA game with a clock behind each backboard showing the time. This NBA rule makes for higher scoring contests. The 24-second clock starts up when a team gains what is considered a new possession of the basketball. If a team does not shoot the ball towards the basket in the allotted time, the opposing team is given the ball. The basketball has to leave an offensive player's hands before the 24-second shot clock expires and that shot must hit the rim of the basket or the defensive team is awarded possession. When the defense knocks the ball out of bounds the shot clock stops and whatever time is left on it is what the offense has to work with when it inbounds the ball.


  • The NBA rules and regulations allows two 20-second timeouts each half. The ball must be ruled dead or the team calling the timeout must have possession of the ball for the referee to call a 20-second timeout. Both teams get a total of six 60-second timeouts for the length of regulation play. However, the teams are allowed to use just three timeouts in the fourth quarter of an NBA game and can't use more than two in the last two minutes of regulation play. There are three timeouts allotted during overtime, but only two can be called within the last two minutes.

Fighting and flagrant fouls

  • If an altercation breaks out on the court during an NBA game the rules covering the situation are clear. Any player that leaves the area of the bench to join in the fighting will be suspended for the next game and fined as much as $35,000. There are two types of flagrant fouls under NBA regulations. A flagrant foul 1 is committed when a player makes unnecessary contact with an opponent. A flagrant foul 2 is more serious and occurs when the contact is excessive and unsportsmanlike. This type of foul warrants immediate ejection, a possible suspension and a fine not more than $35,000.

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