As NBA viewers, we see that they keep time up to tenths of a second. But officially do they keep track of time to hundredths (or perhaps even thousandths) of a second?

Here's an example. Say there are 'really' 27.12 seconds left in the quarter, with a team to inbound the ball. The team inbounds the ball and then commits a 24 second shot-clock violation. At this point the referees will typically stop the play and reset the clock to what it should be. Viewers at home will see that they reset the clock to 3.1 seconds (correct me if I'm mistaken). My question is this: Do they in fact reset it to precisely 3.12 seconds? Or do they really just reset it to 3.10 seconds?

1 Answer 1


The NBA does not explicitly discuss the possibility of hundredths of a second in its rules, so in theory a club could probably implement that - but it's not something any team does currently.

The NBA Rulebook, rule 5, discusses timing. In 1989 they added the tenths of a second in the final minute that you see today; prior to that it was only whole seconds. Currently, clocks are required to show them only for the final minute, so prior to that it's not required (and not customary).

Additionally, human response time is greater than a tenth of a second (I've seen different times stated, but never anything less than 0.2 seconds). Any precision beyond tenths of a second would be false precision. Even tenths of a second are often too precise; look at the Derek Fisher shot in the 2004 playoffs against the Spurs, for example. A frame by frame breakdown shows he took a bit over the 0.4 seconds available to make the shot - but the earlier basked by Duncan likely should've allowed 0.6 to 0.7 seconds for him to take the shot. Given even with the modern timing advances there's almost certainly a 0.1 second or greater error on exactly when the clock should start or stop, going down to hundredths would be pointless. Except for sports bloggers, anyway, for them it would be a gold mine...

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