In basketball, if you get the ball during the opening tip off, the other team gets the ball at the start of the 2nd and 3rd quarter and you only get the ball at the start of the 4th quarter.

So there is no advantage to winning the opening tip off and no disadvantage to losing the tip off because both teams start with the ball an equal amount of times. If that's the case, why even have a tip off? Why not just start the game the same way you'd start every other quarter?

4 Answers 4


In FIBA rules, and assuming no other event caused a jump ball situation, then the possession at the beginning of the next periods would be.

team A wins Jump: Team B starts 2nd period. Team A Starts 3rd period. Team B Starts 4th period. (Not A, B, B, A) as claimed in question.

There are 2 reasons why winning the tip is useful

  • leading versus chasing (can be considered an advantage, first to score)
  • as teams alternate possession and therefore the chance to shoot, the clock in that period counts down. It can be that Team A began the period and also had the last chance to shoot in a period. Uneven number of possessions. Jump ball situations normally do happen so the right to start the last period may end up team A again.

So having first possession is a small advantage.

  • out of sheer curiosity, do you have any stats that correlates winning the tip-off and scoring first?
    – user14817
    Mar 5, 2018 at 14:32
  • No I dont have such stats. Turnover stats may be irrelevant in this case. Given that 99.999% of the time without the ball you dont score and both team can potentially produce turnovers. Turnovers most likely do not change the size of the small advantage of first possession . Quantifying this small advantage is however another exercise.
    – phil soady
    Mar 5, 2018 at 16:15
  • This reminds me of deferring a reception in the NFL. I do consider your second point more interesting because of number of possessions: a team could finish a quarter with a 2-for-1 AND end up with possession for the start of the next quarter.
    – user14817
    Mar 5, 2018 at 17:29
  • racketracer.com/2015/05/12/… talks about 2-for-1 opportunities, in which the average differential is +0.74 points for each 2-for-1 shot. This may be outside the scope of this question, but it is something for consideration.
    – user14817
    Mar 5, 2018 at 17:35

If you look at probability models there is a weight on importance of each quarter of the game. The 4th quarter has almost a 40% impact on the game (when it should be 25%). I don't remember the exact percentage and it wasn't memorable but having an extra possession in the 4th quarter led to an increase in win probability in close games - threshold is 10 points I think - and a substantial increase in probability in even games.

So the tip off means almost nothing to stat geeks that work for teams for the first quarter possession but the 4th quarter possession is valued so high that it makes it an important thing for a lot of teams. Now there are still a lot of NBA teams that half-ass the tipoff because they aren't looking for the .85% (just making that up) edge but other teams do care.

I know this is more of a comment but just too long but maybe someone can reference the MIT article that I read about this a few years ago. But to sum it up the later in the game you get the more valuable possessions are in their correlation to win probability and you can't get later than the 4th quarter.

In other leagues - not NBA - that us alternating possessions the tip off is even more important because it is a half possession advantage per game. Any coach would want a .55 point lead.


I can't speak to the NBA, but in college and high school, the possession arrow is set by who wins the tip-off. So, if team A wins the tip and there's no violation that causes a jump ball call from the ref, team B should get the ball at the beginning of the next quarter, then the arrow would flip to team A.

I can't remember off hand, but there are other instances that cause a possession arrow to flip, not just a jump ball or the end of a quarter/half. I do know if a ball get's stuck between the rim and backboard is one and I believe a double technical goes to the possession arrow.

  • This is correct, but doesn't really answer the question - what's the advantage of winning the opening tip-off as it all cancels out in the long run?
    – Philip Kendall
    Feb 13, 2018 at 19:43
  • Apologies, I guess I wasn't clear with my answer. The statement preceding the question is not true; Team A and B do not alternate the start of each period. Who get's the ball on 2nd and subsequent periods is set by the alternating possession arrow (or possession arrow for short). (NCAA 17-18, Rule 6.3.5) The questions themselves are invalid, since the statements they are made off of are incorrect. The possession arrow being established is the reason for the 'tip-off', and subsequent periods' possession is awarded based off whom the possession arrow indicates should receive possession. Feb 23, 2018 at 16:25
  • @BrianWendel "Who get's the ball on 2nd and subsequent periods is set by the alternating possession arrow." Not entirely true. 6.2.1 states "A jump ball is a method of putting the ball into play at the beginning of the game or any extra period(s)." Since there are two halves in an NCAA game (before extra period(s) are played, if necessary), the only time the possession arrow matters is for the start of the 2nd half (not "and subsequent periods").
    – user14817
    Mar 5, 2018 at 17:46
  • @user257138 true for college, but high school does have a 3rd and 4th. I should have further clarified that from my original statement. But to continue the original point, there are situations in a game where possession is awarded via the possession arrow; if the ball becomes lodged between the rim and backboard, that goes to the possession arrow. There are a handful of other instances where the arrow matters, and by extension, the tip-off. Mar 15, 2018 at 22:01

I did find a study on this. There is a slight advantage to winning the opening tip. The NBA team that wins the opening tip wins the game 52.5% of the time. Winning the opening tip results in a win more often for the home team than the away team.

  • 2
    Welcome to Sports SE. Can you provide a link to the study you're referring to?
    – alamoot
    Feb 20, 2021 at 21:14

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