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The NBA's 6 Overtime Game

Sometimes a game can seem like it never ends. The last two minutes of a game can take thirty minutes in real life minutes, but the game usually ends in regulation and occasionally goes into overtime. But on January 6, 1951 it seemed like a game between the Indianapolis Olympians and Rochester Royals would never end.

On May 5, 2019 the Portland Trailblazers outlasted the Denver Nuggets 140-137 in four overtime, but that game would pail in comparison to the January 6th game. On that cold night in Rochester the Olympians beat the Royals 75-73, in SIX OVERTIMES!

The six overtime periods is still a record for the NBA. The game broke the record set a year earlier when the Syracuse Nationals outlasted the Anderson Packers in five overtimes. The NBA was still in its infancy at the time and was missing one major component that the modern game has-the Shot Clock.

The lack of a Shot Clock lead to most games ending with low scores. Earlier in the season the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 in the lowest scoring game in NBA history.

Without the Shot Clock the game was much slower and teams would hold the ball for minutes, as was evident in this game. Two of the six overtimes had no scores. The Olympians scored only 10 points combined in all six overtimes while the Royals managed just 8. In comparison the Blazers-Nuggets game seen both teams score 11-points in the third overtime alone.

The game actually started out very fast paced for its era with the Olympians scoring 20 first quarter points while holding the Royals to just 10. The Royals came back to drop 23 on the Olympians in the second quarter. The Olympians held a five point lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Royals made up ground and held the ball. The Olympians only scored 8 points in fourth quarter and the Royals got 12, which left the game tied at 65.

The first overtime seen the teams trade baskets and then the Olympians held the ball until the game clock was winding down before Alex Groza took a shot at the buzzer-which missed.


The second overtime seen the Royals hold onto the ball the entire extra period, only to miss a game winner themselves. The third overtime mimicked the first with both teams scoring baskets and the Royals again holding onto the ball. The fourth overtime was a replay of the second overtime with both teams going scoreless. The fifth overtime seen some action as the Royals scored quickly only to have the Olympians turn the ball over and the Royals score again. The four point lead seemed insurmountable, but the Olympians scored on their next possession and forced a turnover of their own and scored again to tie the game at 73.

The sixth overtime started the same way as the others had with the team with the ball holding it, but the Olympians finally won the game as Ralph Beard sank a jump shot with one second left in the sixth and final overtime to give the Olympians the victory.

The Olympians only played seven players during the game while the Royals played eight. Several players on both sides played all insane minutes. Red Holzman of the Royals played in 76 of the 78 minutes.

Because of the length of the game the Olympians missed their train to Chicago. The team instead took a train to Detroit where they chartered a flight to Molina, IL. Unfortunately, the plane could only accommodate 5 players, so the Olympians sent their starting 5 and the rest of the team had to take a bus. The bus arrived shortly after the game against the Blackhawks had ended and thus marking the only time in NBA history where a team has used only 5 players. The NBA rulebook will never allow this to happen again, as every team must suit up 8 players.


Since this game the NBA has had only one other game go beyond 4 overtimes, that was a 1989 contest between the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle Supersonics. The lack of multiple overtime games is caused by the Shot Clock, which prevents teams from hold the ball.

Holzman, who went on to coach the New York Knicks, said in his biography that this game and the one earlier in the season between the Lakers and Pistons is what caused the NBA to adopt the Shot Clock. The Shot Clock immediately changed the game and caused scoring to increase and made it a much more entertaining game for the fans. Before the Shot Clock basketball was seen as a boring game, but the excitement and scoring brought by the Shot Clock changed that perception. This game is notable, but not a lot of accounts exist from it. Less than 3,900 attended the game and the NBA did not keep good records at the time. Most of what is known about the game comes from the Indystar and Red Holzman.

Both teams would go on to have successful seasons. The Olympians would finish fourth in the western division and lose in the playoffs to the Minneapolis Lakers. The Royals would go on to have the greatest finish in their history, concluding the 1951 with the franchises only NBA title.

The Royals would move to Cincinnati in 1957 and than to Kansas City in 1972 and finally to Sacramento in 1985. The Olympians would have one of the most tragic falls in sports history as their star players, who also owned the team, were convicted of taking bribes while at the University of Kentucky and forced out of basketball. The Olympians would disband in 1953.

  1 2 3 4 OT 2OT 3OT 4OT 5OT 6OT T
INO 20 18 19 8 2 0 2 0 4 2 75
ROC 10 23 20 12 2 0 2 0 4 0 73

Indianapolis Olympians 
Player		MP	FG	FT	FTA	FT%	PF	PTS
Alex Groza		8	1	1	1.000	0	17
Ralph Beard		8	1	1	1.000	1	17
Bob Lavoy		6	1	1	1.000	3	13
Paul Walther		4	4	4	1.000	1	12
Cliff Barker		4	1	1	1.000	3	9
John Mahnken		2	3	3	1.000	2	7
Joe Holland		0	0	0	 .000	0	0
Team Totals	390	32	11	11	1.000	10	75

Rochester Royals  
Player		MP	FG	FT	FTA	FT%	PF	PTS
Arnie Risen		11	4	6	.667	3	26
Jack Coleman		7	1	2	.500	2	15
Bill Calhoun		6	0	1	.000	1	12
Bobby Wanzer		3	0	1	.000	0	6
Pep Saul		3	0	0	.000	2	6
Joe McNamee		2	0	0	.000	0	4
Red Holzman	76	1	1	1	1.000	0	3
Arnie Johnson		0	1	1	1.000	1	1
Team Totals	390	33	7	12	.583	9	73