NBA Rules and Regulations

Many NBA rules are the standard official basketball rules for all levels, such as what constitutes a foul or what is a violation. However, when looking at things like the size of the court, timeouts, the shot clock, and other aspects of the league, NBA basketball has lots of unique features.

Regulation NBA court dimensions

Important dimensions and measurements of a regulation NBA basketball court are as follows:

  • The court itself measures 94 feet long, 50 feet wide
  • The half-court line measures 47 feet from either side of the court
  • The three-point line measures 23 feet 9 inches
  • The free-throw line measures 15 feet from the basketball hoop
  • The free-throw lane measures 16 feet wide, and includes a restricted area that extends four feet in every direction from the basketball hoop

Length of games

Among the most significant differences between high school basketball, NCAA basketball, Olympic basketball, and NBA basketball is the length of the games themselves.

  • An NBA game consists of four quarters that are each 12 minutes long
  • After the second quarter, a halftime break of 15 minutes is taken
  • If necessary, an overtime period is five additional minutes

Twenty-four-second shot clock

In addition to the game clock, a second clock, known as the shot clock, is used in the National Basketball Association. The shot clock is visible in several different places all around the arena, most notably behind the backboard. The shot clock makes for higher scoring games and has its own set of rules:

  • The offensive team has 24 seconds to take a shot before being called for a shot clock violation; if they fail to do so, the opposing team is awarded with the ball
  • The 24-second clock starts to run when a team gains possession of the basketball and does not stop at any point during the possession
  • In order to avoid a shot clock violation, the basketball must be released from the offensive player’s hand before the clock expires, and if the shot does not hit the rim, the NBA official will blow their whistle and the award possession of the ball to the defensive team
  • In recent years, rule changes have made it so when a team gets an offensive rebound, the shot clock automatically resets to 14 seconds
  • When the game clock itself is under 24 seconds and a team begins a new possession, the shot clock is turned off for that possession
  • If the ball is deflected out-of-bounds by a defensive player and the offensive team maintains possession, they have whatever time was left on the shot clock to work with for the rest of the possession


In the fast-paced game of basketball, timeouts are important for players and coaches to regroup. The rules for timeouts in the NBA are as follows:

  • Teams are allowed ​two 20-second timeouts each half
  • Teams get a total of ​six 60-second timeouts for the length of the game​, but are allowed to use just three timeouts in the fourth quarter and cannot use more than two in the last two minutes of regulation play
  • Each team is allowed ​three timeouts during overtime​, and only two can be called within the last two minutes

Fighting and flagrant fouls

NBA players are used to physical contact, but physical contact in a non-basketball manner, such as a fight or altercation, has steady consequences.

  • 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
  • Ejections, suspensions, and fines are all based on the severity of individual situations, but are always handed out anytime there is a physical altercation or fight of any kind

The rules of basketball outline the different types of fouls, including personal fouls, technical fouls, and flagrant fouls. Flagrant fouls, categorized by their severity, have different meanings and consequences:

  • A flagrant foul 1​ is committed when a player makes unnecessary contact with an opponent, and results in two free throws and possession of the ball for the team that the foul was committed against
  • 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