How Much Do NBA Referees Make?

Being an NBA referee is a tough, hectic, and at times a thankless job. People don’t realize how tough it can get for referees; not only do they have to be extremely focused and sharp, they need to stay in shape so that they can keep running up and down the court during the full course of a game. Plus, if they make a bad decision it can lead to an intense backlash from the fans, players, and coaches.

Sometimes it seems as if the ref missed something really obvious, but it can seem that way when you’re watching the game on your TV, and you see those slow-mo shots, but things aren’t quite as simple when they happen in real-time.

So it’s safe to say that the referees have a pretty tough gig, and being an NBA referee is no child’s play. But the question that a lot of fans want the answer to is; how much do NBA referees make?

On average, an NBA referee can make $150,000 to $550,000 annually. However much like any other profession salaries vary with experience. Some of the highest-paid referees make more than $3,000 per game and more than $500,000 a year.

This article will explore different aspects of an NBA referee’s career and will answer any question that you might have in your mind regarding NBA referees.

NBA Referees Salary:

Ejected From The NBA

We all know how tough the job of an NBA referee can be. Even though they don’t make as much money as the athletes on the court the NBA pays them a good amount to make it worth their while; otherwise, the stakes are way too high and the slightest mistake on the referee’s end can result in an intense backlash which makes the job that much more difficult.

Salaries for NBA referees range from $150,000 to $550,000. However, the exact number really depends on the experience of the referee. If someone is starting out as an NBA referee, they would make around $600 per game, which is roughly $250,000 per year as opposed to a seasoned referee who has three to five years of experience and makes around $3,500 per game and $500,000 annually.

As the stakes get higher, so do the paychecks for the referees. If referees make $600 to $3,500 in a regular-season game, in a playoff game, or a final, they make $800 to $5,000.

How do the salaries of NBA referees compare to other leagues?

Although NBA officials have a small edge over other leagues when it comes to salaries, referees make almost the same amount on average across different leagues in America. The average salary for referees in the MLB is around $300,000, whereas the referees in the NFL and the NHL make $205,000 and $275,000 respectively.

WNBA referees make considerably less compared to NBA referees, given that the league isn’t as popular as and has a smaller fan base. WNBA referees make $450-$500 per game and $16,000 annually, which is considerably less compared to other leagues.

The pros and cons of being an NBA referee

pros and cons of being an NBA referee

If you want to become an NBA referee there are a number of things that you need to know. Before you jump in with both feet, you should consider the pros and cons of becoming an NBA referee to make sure that it is a career that you really want to pursue.


If you’ve been a fan of the game for a long time and were unable to play the sport at the highest level, becoming a referee is a great way to stay involved with the game and make a career out of the game that you love.

Referees have the best seat in the arena. They are up close and with the players and get to watch the game from a distinctive viewpoint. They also get the opportunity to form good relationships with some of the star players.

Another benefit of being an NBA referee is that the job requires extreme physical fitness, which is great for your health, as opposed to a job that required you to sit behind a desk all day long. In order to keep up with everything that is going on on the court, you need to be in the best shape of your life.

Moreover, you get to make money doing what you love. Referees make a good amount of money, making as much as $5,000 a game and $500,000 a year. So not only is being a referee extremely fun it’s also extremely rewarding.


It’s no secret that being a referee can be really hectic, tough, and stressful. They need to make split-second decisions that could turn a game upside down. Sometimes split-second decisions might end up affecting the outcome of the entire season. So if you make a mistake you are going to get scrutinized by the player, fans, and coaches.

You need to have thick skin to deal with everything that comes with being an NBA referee. You also have to travel a lot which means you will spend a lot of nights away from your home and family.

How to become an NBA referee?

How to become an NBA referee?

All the NBA referees are highly skilled and physically fit individuals. They are passionate about the sport and have in-depth knowledge of basketball. They are quick on their feet and are quick decision-makers. On top of all that they have thick skin and the ability to stay patient in heated moments on the court.

If you want to become an NBA referee you need to get a proper education first. It doesn’t matter if it’s a diploma or a degree, anything that introduces you to the basics is going to be helpful when you start scouting for jobs.

Once you have a good understanding of all the rules of the sport and have a solid grasp of all the facets of the game, you need to make sure that you are physically ready for the job. You will need to be in the shape of your life. You will have to run up and down the court for 48 minutes just like the players, the only difference is that if you get tired there won’t be a substitute referee who will come in for you.

However, basketball is not all about physical fitness, the mental aspect of the sport holds the same importance, if not more. You need to train your brain so that you can make accurate and quick decisions. You also need to make sure that you stay focused and calm under extreme pressure and criticism

You also need to learn and practice the calls. This part isn’t as difficult nowadays, you can learn all the calls and hand signals from youtube videos, or just by watching NBA games and observing the referees. You can try mimicking the referees and making calls in real-time to get better at them.

Once you have the basics down, it’s time to get certified. As you learn more and more about the game and work your way up you should get certifications that will show that you have the required skills.

The final step is to get registered on the NBA website where you will learn how to participate in camps and other professional training. You will also get information about applying and getting started in the G League and NBA summer leagues.

Duties of an NBA referee?

Duties of an NBA referee?

A referee’s job starts even before the game begins. It’s the job of a referee to inspect and approve the uniforms and equipment of all the players. They keep an eye on the players during their practice sessions prior to the game to make sure that they are following the rules regarding dress, clothing, and jewelry. Then they meet with the scoring officials and the captains from both teams.

They notify both the teams three minutes before the start of play and the second half. They also confirm the starting line-ups in the scorebook before the start of play and notify the captains to prepare to play.

The referee starts every game by tossing the ball up for a tip-off between one player from both teams. Their job is to call any violation of the rules, for example, if a player travels, commits a foul, double-dribbles, or any other infraction of laws. Timeouts are taken by the permission of the referee and a team can make a substitution only if the referee allows it. The Referee also needs to confirm three-point shots for the official scorers.

A Referee also calls fouls, administers, and enforces changes of possession and free throws. Referees have the authority to assess technical fouls and eject a player for violation of rules. They can even eject the coach or forfeit the game in certain circumstances.

Final thoughts

NBA referees have the best seat in the whole arena to witness all the action from. However, if you’re not cut out for the job, it can turn into a nightmare really quickly. In a league as big as the NBA, there is no room for error, and the moment a referee makes a mistake, the coaches, players, and the fans make sure that the referee knows what they have done.

NBA referees get to make a lot of money, travel to different places for free, and hang out with the biggest NBA stars which attracts a lot of people to try and become NBA referees. Plus not everyone can become an NBA player, but it’s much easier to become an NBA referee, all it takes is commitment and hard work. So, if you’re willing to put in the time and work you can easily become an NBA referee.