The 5 Longest Games in Sports History

The 5 Longest Games in Sports History

When a sporting event is an exciting, back and forth matchup, fans wish that the game would never end. Sometimes, these games are tied up at the end of regulation. To determine a winner, these games go into overtime. Every once in a while, these games can turn into marathons, with both teams refusing to lose and continuing to play well into the night and even into the next morning.

24/7 Tempo reviewed historical sports sources like the Pro Football Hall of Fame to determine the longest games in sports history. These are the longest games based on the length of recorded play time, and not necessarily the games that lasted the longest in real time due to delays or other interruptions.

Of the four major American sports leagues, only the NFL allows regular season ties if the teams are even after one overtime. In the NBA and MLB, teams simply keep playing until a winner is decided. In the NHL regular season, teams play one overtime period, then the winner is decided by a shootout. Overtime rules change in the NFL and NHL playoffs, and games continue until a winner is decided.

Some of the longest games ever were tense, drawn-out defensive battles where each team struggled to score. But some were thrilling contests where each team’s offense one-upped the other, making big plays after big plays. These are the greatest shootouts in sports history.

Many of the longest-ever games happened decades ago, and those records seem unlikely to be broken. Major Leaguers are hitting more home runs per game than ever before, so it seems unlikely that a baseball game could stretch too far into extra innings before someone hits a game-deciding homer. NFL and NHL teams are also scoring more in recent years, and given that their overtime is sudden death, these games are more likely to end on a quick score than ever before. In fact, many of the longest game records are so old, the games were played by now-defunct franchises. These are the greatest teams that disappeared.

Each sport’s overtime rules work differently. Baseball is untimed, and MLB games will continue, one inning after another, until a victor is decided. In the NBA, ties are broken in five-minute OT periods that are played like regulation. There are no ties in the NBA, so teams continue playing overtime periods until the game is decided. In the NHL, regular season games now have one five-minute overtime period followed by a shootout, so games do not officially go over 65 minutes anymore. But in the playoffs, teams play 20-minute overtime periods until a goal is scored. Similarly, NFL regular season games can end in a tie after a single overtime, but postseason games will continue as long as they have to. Teams automatically win if they score a touchdown in overtime. We did not consider MLB games before 1908 or NFL games before 1966. There have been many four-overtime NBA games, so we selected those that took the longest in real time for the list.

Source: ShellyS / Wikimedia Commons

5. New York Mets vs. Houston Astros
> Length: 24 innings
> Date: Apr. 15, 1968
> Score, winner: 1-0, Houston

Arguably the greatest pitchers’ duel in MLB history took place near the start of the 1968 season. The Mets’ Tom Seaver and Astros’ Don Wilson dominated the opposing team. Wilson threw nine shutout innings and Seaver threw 10 before the bullpen took over. The game finally ended after more than six hours when, in the bottom of the 24th, Mets shortstop Al Weis made an error with the bases loaded, allowing the lone run to score.

Source: Library of Congress

4. Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Athletics
> Length: 24 innings
> Date: July 21, 1945
> Score, winner: 1-1, tie

In this 1945 game, three different pitchers hurled over 10 innings. The Athletics’ Russ Christopher gave up just one run in 13 innings before being spelled by Joe Berry, who threw 11 scoreless. Detroit’s Les Mueller threw nearly 20 innings before Dizzy Trout replaced him. All four pitchers were on their games, as neither team could break the 1-1 deadlock despite having 15 extra innings to try. The game was eventually called off due to darkness, ending in a tie.

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

3. Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago White Sox
> Length: 25 innings
> Date: May 8-9, 1984
> Score, winner: 7-6, Chicago

This Brewers-White Sox game is not the longest baseball game by innings. But at over eight hours of play, it is the game that took the longest to complete. Tied 1-1 going into the ninth, both teams scored a pair of runs that inning, so the game went into extras knotted at three. After eight more scoreless innings, the game was paused until the next day. It initially looked like the game might finally end in the 21st, when the Brewers scored three in the top of the frame, but Chicago answered back with three runs of their own so the game continued. Harold Baines finally ended it with a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 25th.

Source: Hostess / Wikimedia Commons

2. St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets
> Length: 25 innings
> Date: Sept. 11, 1974
> Score, winner: 4-3, St. Louis

The New York Mets seemed to be cruising to a 3-1 win over the Cardinals on Sept. 11, 1974, but then surrendered a two-run home run to Ken Reitz in the top of the ninth to tie it up. Though each team got well over a dozen runners on base in extra innings, neither scored until a botched pickoff attempt allowed St. Louis’s Bake McBride to score from first. The Cardinals’ seventh pitcher of the night, Sonny Siebert, was able to shut out the Mets in the 25th and finally bring the game to an end.

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

1. Brooklyn Robins vs. Boston Braves
> Length: 26 innings
> Date: May 1, 1920
> Score, winner: 1-1, tie

A game from nearly a century ago, played between two teams that no longer exist, still stands as the longest game in MLB history. The Brooklyn Robins took a 1-0 lead in the fifth, then the Boston Braves tied it up in the sixth. Then, for 20 innings, there was no scoring. Astonishingly, neither team changed pitchers. Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger each pitched 26 innings until the game was declared a tie due to darkness. The game took just three hours and 50 minutes of real time, as baseball goes much quicker without TV commercial breaks.

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

5. Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks
> Length: 68 minutes (4OT)
> Date: Mar. 1, 2019
> Score, winner: 168-161, Chicago

The March 2019 game between Chicago and Atlanta was a shootout in regulation, as both teams racked up 124 points in the first 48 minutes. Zach LaVine paced the Bulls with 47 points, while Atlanta’s Trae Young led all scorers with 49. Chicago finally got the edge in the fourth overtime, winning 168-161. The game is one of the highest scoring contests of all time.

Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

4. Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks
> Length: 68 minutes (4OT)
> Date: Jan. 29, 2017
> Score, winner: 142-139, Atlanta

This Hawks-Knicks matchup from 2017 was an all-time nail-biter that kept going thanks to some late-game heroics. Carmelo Anthony laid it in with three seconds left in regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime. Melo did it again in the first OT, nailing a fadeaway jumper with seven seconds left to tie the game at 113. The Knicks relied on a Courtney Lee 3-pointer with two seconds left to survive 2OT but ran out of gas in the fourth overtime. Atlanta was able to hold New York scoreless for most of the final overtime period, edging them out 142-139.

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

3. Milwaukee Bucks vs. Seattle SuperSonics
> Length: 73 minutes (5OT)
> Date: Nov. 9, 1989
> Score, winner: 155-154, Milwaukee

This early season matchup between the Bucks and SuperSonics may have been one of the most exhausting games in sports history. Three different players played over a full hour of game time — the typical NBA game lasts just 48 minutes. Dale Ellis was the game’s best player, scoring 53 points, including 14-17 shooting from the free throw line. By the time it was over, this contest became one of just 14 games in NBA history in which both teams scored at least 150 points.

Source: Dave Payton / Wikimedia Commons

2. Syracuse Nationals vs. Anderson Packers
> Length: 73 minutes (5OT)
> Date: Nov. 24, 1949
> Score, winner: 125-123, Syracuse

The first quintuple-overtime game in NBA history had a very balanced scoring attack from both teams. The Anderson Packers, from Indiana, had seven players in double figures, while the Nationals had six. The Nationals would finally gain the edge in the fifth extra period, winning 125-123. The Packers franchise folded after the season, while the Nationals became the Philadelphia 76ers in 1963.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Indianapolis Olympians vs. Rochester Royals
> Length: 78 minutes (6OT)
> Date: Jan. 6, 1951
> Score, winner: 75-73, Indianapolis

The longest game in NBA history was a defensive struggle, to say the least. The Indianapolis Olympians and Rochester Royals were tied at 65 at the end of regulation, but they struggled to score any points in overtime. Both teams were shut out in the second and fourth overtime periods and could manage just two points apiece in the first and third, and four points each in the fifth OT. Finally, in the sixth overtime, the Royals were totally shut out, while the Olympians scored two — enough to secure the victory in the longest NBA game ever.

Source: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

5. Carolina Panthers vs. St. Louis Rams
> Length: 75:10
> Date: Jan. 10, 2004
> Score, winner: 29-23, Carolina

The 2004 Divisional Round playoff game between the Panthers and Rams was a tense, back and forth contest. The Rams were down 11 late in the fourth quarter before getting a touchdown and two-point conversion with under three minutes remaining, then hitting a field goal as time expired. Neither team could score in the first overtime. The second OT was a different story. On the first play from scrimmage, Jake Delhomme connected with Steve Smith on a 69-yard touchdown to end the Rams’ season.

Source: Getty Images

4. Oakland Raiders vs. Baltimore Colts
> Length: 75:43
> Date: Dec. 24, 1977
> Score, winner: 37-31, Oakland

With eight lead changes in total, this Raiders-Colts game is considered one of the most exciting NFL playoff games ever. Oakland’s offense was dominant, tallying nearly 500 yards. But it was also sloppy, committing four key turnovers to keep Baltimore in the game. After a scoreless first OT, the Raiders were able to get their offense in gear, when a Ken Stabler TD pass to Dave Casper ended the second overtime after just 43 seconds.

Source: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

3. Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos
> Length: 76:42
> Date: Jan. 12, 2013
> Score, winner: 38-35, Baltimore

This recent Ravens-Broncos game is likely remembered for the miraculous late-game 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco that sent the game into overtime. It was also the longest game of the 21st century. Both defenses stifled their opponents in the first overtime. Baltimore’s Corey Graham picked off a Peyton Manning pass late in the first OT, allowing the Ravens’ offense to pick up a handful of yards and set up kicker Justin Tucker for the game-winning 47 yard field goal. The Ravens would continue to play well, eventually winning the Super Bowl that season.

Source: Rick Stewart / Getty Images

2. Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets
> Length: 77:02
> Date: Jan. 3, 1987
> Score, winner: 23-20, Cleveland

The New York Jets appeared to be on their way to a road playoff win after taking a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Browns. But Cleveland, led by QB Bernie Kosar’s 489 pass yards, stormed back to tie the game at 20 points each. After a scoreless first OT, the Browns won on a 2OT field goal. Cleveland’s good fortune wouldn’t last long, though. The team lost in the AFC Championship Game to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

Source: Courtesy of Donruss

1. Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs
> Length: 82:40
> Date: Dec. 25, 1971
> Score, winner: 27-24, Miami

The longest-ever NFL game could have taken much less time than the 82:40 the Chiefs and Dolphins needed, but sloppy execution kept a winner from being decided. The Chiefs had four costly turnovers and their kicker Jan Stenerud missed three of his four field goal attempts, including an attempt with under a minute to go in regulation and had another OT kick blocked. Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian, though, hit the biggest kick of the game — a 37 yard winner in double overtime, ending the longest game in NFL history. The Dolphins would go on to lose in the Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys, but they went undefeated the next season.

Source: Doug Benc / Getty Images

5. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim vs. Dallas Stars
> Length: 140:48
> Date: Apr. 24, 2003
> Score, winner: 4-3, Anaheim

In the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s critical to win the first game to establish an advantage over your opponent. In their 2003 series, the Mighty Ducks and the Stars battled for well over two hours in the series opener. Two Stars, Derian Hatcher and Sergei Zubov, were on the ice for over an hour. But it was Anaheim that prevailed, with a Petr Sykora goal in the first minute of the fifth overtime. The Mighty Ducks would go on to win the series in six games.


Source: Elsa / Getty Images

4. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
> Length: 150:27
> Date: Aug. 11, 2020
> Score, winner: 2-1, Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s road to the 2020 Stanley Cup started with one of the longest NHL games of all time. Playing the first game of their first round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL’s COVID-19 bubble in Toronto, Tampa Bay tied the game at 2-2 at the beginning of the third period, then battled it out for four scoreless overtime periods. Eventually, Brayden Point scored halfway through the fifth OT to give the Lightning the win. Tampa Bay won the series in five games on their way to winning the franchise’s second Stanley Cup.

Source: Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

3. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
> Length: 152:01
> Date: May 4, 2000
> Score, winner: 2-1, Philadelphia

Down two games to one to their in-state rival Penguins, the Flyers desperately needed a game four win in their 2000 playoff series. After trailing 1-0 for most of the game, the Flyers were finally able to score a third-period equalizer and send it to OT. Both defenses played well all game but really took it up a notch in overtime, preventing the winning goal for over 90 minutes. The Flyers’ Keith Primeau scored the winner, and Philly would go on to win the next two games to take the series.

Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix / Wikimedia Commons

2. Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
> Length: 164:46
> Date: Apr. 3-4, 1933
> Score, winner: 1-0, Toronto

With a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line, Toronto and Boston played the first 6OT game in NHL history. The offenses were held at bay for more than two and a half hours of game time. The team’s coaches even agreed to decide the game by coin flip after four overtimes because neither side seemed capable of scoring, but players refused to let it end like that. Ken Doraty finally tallied the deciding goal for the Maple Leafs in the sixth overtime, at nearly 2 a.m. Toronto would go on to lose the Finals to the New York Rangers.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Detroit Red Wings vs. Montreal Maroons
> Length: 176:30
> Date: Mar. 24-25, 1936
> Score, winner: 1-0, Detroit

The longest game in NHL history took place over two days in 1936, as the 6OT contest lasted until 2:25 a.m. The semifinal matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons, at over 176 minutes, was nearly three times as long as a standard game. The players were all exhausted toward the end, reportedly running on coffee and brandy. Detroit’s Mud Bruneteau finally scored a winner in the last minutes of the sixth overtime, to the relief of the players and fans alike. Some supporters were so excited they stuffed money into his jersey. This was just the first game of the series, which Detroit swept 3-0 on their way to a Stanley Cup championship.

To top