Crazy Long Games in Basketball History

Despite what this newsletter may lead you to believe, I enjoy other sports besides basketball. And I was RIVETED by a game this past Sunday night.

You see, it was the final week of the NFL’s regular season. And thanks to some spectacular circumstances, the very final game of the season, between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders (two teams who have moved cities in the past decade), had fantastic stakes attached to it.

The winner would make the playoffs. The loser would not. But if a very rare tie happened, both teams would make the playoffs.

Unless you’re a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (the team that would be squeezed out in the case of a draw), how could you not root for anything else but a tie?

We want CHAOS, darn it. For several fleeting moments, it looked like we might get it.

The Chargers scored 15 points in the final 4:30, including a touchdown on the final play of regulation to send the game to overtime.

In overtime, the teams exchanged field goals. The next score would win…or no one could score again and we’d get our dream of a tie.

The Raiders casually moved the ball down the field, in no hurry to score. Then the Chargers strangely called timeout with 38 seconds left.

Raiders QB Derek Carr said the move definitely changed the team’s mindset. Instead of being content with the tie, the Raiders went for the jugular. They got 10 more yards on their next play, setting up a game-winning field goal as time expired.

I was crushed. I wanted the tie.

Of course, basketball has no ties. If two teams have the same score, we go to overtime. Then another one. And so on and so on, until a team has finally emerged victorious.

That’s what this email is all about. Those wacky, wild, incredibly long games. Hope you don’t have to go to the bathroom (just kidding, you’ll have plenty of time with all the commercials and replay reviews).

January 6, 1951: Indianapolis Olympians 75, Rochester Royals 73 in 6OT

The longest game in NBA history was played more than 70 years ago. Looking at that score you might be like “what?! I could score more than 75 points if I were given the proper amount of time to do so!”

Well, back in the 1950s, the shot clock did not yet exist. Because of that, you could take a long time before shooting the ball.

Teams would often sing entire songs in the frontcourt (Red Foley’s “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy” was a particularly popular number, but don’t count out “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake” by Eileen Barton) before even considering running a play on offense.

As a result, scores just weren’t as high as they were later on, as the league evolved and made it so that teams only had 24 seconds before the ball had to hit the rim.

In this game, Alex Groza and Ralph Beard each had 17 points for Indianapolis. Rochester’s Arnie Risen put up 26 points in the losing effort, which would probably be like 384 points in today’s game.

In the sixth and deciding overtime, the Olympians scored two points and held the Royals to zero. Gotta love that efficiency.

November 24, 1949: Syracuse Nationals 125, Anderson Packers 123 in 5OT

This game happened a little over a year before the longest NBA game ever, but I’m putting it second instead of chronologically to highlight the stark difference in scoring.

These teams played five fewer minutes but combined for 100 more points. That’s insane. I take back everything I said about the shot clock.

The Packers led by 11 points at halftime. NO MATTER. The Nationals stormed back and (eventually) earned the victory.

November 9, 1989: Milwaukee Bucks 155, Seattle SuperSonics 154 in 5OT

This was the fourth game of the season for both teams, so they had plenty of energy, since they had only played about 3.7% of the season.

And goodness, did they need it. Dale Ellis, a noted three-point specialist for Seattle, only made three three-pointers but still finished with 53 points.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s highest scorer was Ricky Pierce, who came off the bench to have 36 points. He also had more turnovers (five) than rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks combined (three), but no one cares about that when you’re a winner.

March 12, 2009: Syracuse 127, Connecticut 117 in 6OT

This game was so long I went to bed and woke up and it was still going.

Okay, that’s not totally true; it started at 9:36 p.m. Eastern and ran until 1:22 a.m., for a brisk three-hour-and-46-minute runtime (which I believe still makes it shorter than any Lord of the Rings movie).

The Orange won by double digits despite not leading at any point during the first five overtimes. The teams combined to shoot 211 field goals, 93 free throws, and had eight players foul out.

Goodness, I’m winded just typing that. I can’t even imagine playing it.

And thanks to ESPN, you can relive it in under one minute right here.

March 11, 2016: Connecticut 104, Cincinnati 97 in 4OT

UConn sure loves playing in these long games, huh?

I only remember three things about this AAC contest: I had it on while I was eating lunch. UConn needed to win the game to make the NCAA Tournament.

And this sequence at the end of the third overtime. THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT MARCH MADNESS.