Back in 2015, the Detroit Pistons outlasted the Chicago Bulls 147-144 in an epic battle of two Eastern Conference squads. We don’t use the term “epic battle” lightly, but this game went into an absurd four overtimes. The quadruple-overtime classic featured nearly 300 combined points, 126 rebounds, 16 lead changes, 16 ties, three foul outs, and lasted three hours and 24 minutes.
Astonishingly, this game was far from the first to go this long. In fact, Friday’s thriller was the 13th game in league history to go into at least four overtimes according to NBA.com. Now, it’s time for a little basketball history lesson. We’re here to countdown the three longest games in NBA history in terms of overtimes. Remarkably, the Bulls/Pistons contest, as well as nine other quadruple overtime games, don’t make the cut. Let’s see which ones did.
3. Milwaukee Bucks 155, Seattle SuperSonics 154 (5OT)
Date: November 9, 1989
Only three games in NBA history have lasted at least five overtimes and this is the most recent one. The early-season tilt between the Bucks and SuperSonics had both teams coming in at 2-1 on the season, and neither group would give up. After a tight first half, the Bucks built a six-point lead going into the final 12 minutes. However, propelled by a monster performance from Dale Ellis (53 points, 7 rebounds, 69 minutes played), the SuperSonics fought back to send it into overtime. Finally, in the fifth and final extra period, Milwaukee finished off the never-ending marathon. They were led by Ricky Pierce, who notched a team-high 36 points off of the bench.
2. Syracuse Nationals 125, Anderson Packers 123 (5OT)
Date: November 24, 1949
The late Hall-of-Famer, Dolph Schayes, helped lead his Syracuse Nationals to a win over the Anderson Packers 125-123. This was the first recorded five-overtime game in league history, and it is the earliest entry on our list. The Nationals entered play on an early-season hot streak, having won six in a row and coming into the game at 10-1 overall.
The Anderson Packers were no slouches though, entering the contest at 6-2. The Packers actually held an 11-point lead after two quarters, but Johnny Macknowski (21 points), Ray Corley (19 points), and Schayes (18 points) led a comeback in the second half. After battling through the rest of regulation and four overtime periods, Syracuse finally held off their opponents. The Packers were led by Frankie Brian’s 18 points, as he connected on all eight of his free-throw attempts.
1. Indianapolis Olympians 75, Rochester Royals 73 (6OT)
Date: January 6, 1951
The longest game in the storied history of the NBA belongs to the Indianapolis Indians and Rochester Royals. On January 6, 1951, the Olympians knocked off the Royals 75-73 after six stunning overtimes. The end result was actually a bit of an upset, as the Royals came into play at 19-10, while the Olympians were just 15-16. Although it was a completely different era of basketball, it’s interesting to note the stellar defensive efforts by both teams in this one.
The Olympians led 20-10 after a quarter and 38-33 at the half. Rochester cut it to a four-point deficit entering the fourth and sent it to OT with a 12-8 output in the fourth. The overtime periods were simply remarkable. Both teams scored just two points in the first overtime and failed to score in the second frame. Then they each put in a pair of points in the third OT and put up goose eggs in the fourth again.
An “offensive explosion” in the fifth overtime saw eight total points scored, with the Olympians’ two points in the sixth OT allowing them to win by that margin. The Royals’ Arnie Risen had a game-high 26 points, while Ralph Beard and Alex Gorza pitched in with 17 points apiece for the victors. If there was ever a six-overtime game in today’s NBA, we think the score may end up being a little higher than 75-73.
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