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How much do NBA referees earn?

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Apart from the players, NBA referees also get lucrative salaries in officiating games. It may not be eight to nine-figure deals that the players are making, but it’s still a pretty sizable amount in the professional sports industry.

NBA referee salary

NBA referees are amongst the best of the best when it comes to making judgments and calls on the court. Yes, they make some questionable calls every now and then, but there’s no other set of referees who can stay calm in a high-pressure game and in front of wild fans.

How much do NBA referees earn?

NBA referees earn an estimated salary between $150,000 and $550,000 per season. Newer referees are on the lower end, while seasoned referees get larger paychecks due to their tenure and experience in the league.

Entry-level referees earn $250,000 per year or $3000 per game. Meanwhile, experienced referees earn up to $550,000 or $7000 per game.

Their salaries even skyrocket when they officiate in a high-stakes game like the playoffs. They earn as high as $10,000 per game in the playoffs and $30,000 per game in the NBA Finals. Referees are only eligible to officiate in the playoffs after they have 3 to 5 years of experience. The more seasoned an NBA referee, the higher the chance they are chosen to patrol those games.


As you can see, the NBA referee salary nowadays is 10 times higher compared to before. They were just earning $18,000 to $80,000 per season in the 1980s.

Do NBA referees get paid per game?

NBA referees are full-time employees of the National Basketball Association. They aren’t independent contractors or freelancers who are paid per game. These refs have an annual contract with the league.

Their contract binds for one season or 82-games in total. It’s up to their negotiations with the NBA on how much and how would they receive their salary.

What benefits does an NBA referee get?

Aside from the salary, there are a plethora of NBA referee benefits as well.

First, their travel expenses are all covered by the league. As you already know, NBA referees are always on the road throughout the 82-game season which lasts up to eight months. They need to travel at least three or four times per week which proves to be costly. The NBA releases the referee assignments each day at 9:00 AM Eastern Time.


Second, the NBA gives them various insurance and retirement plans since they are a full-time employee. The details are undisclosed and depend on every individual.

And lastly, they get to interact with the best basketball players in the world. However, they need to stay professional and be neutral in officiating games. There will be no special treatment to any player or team.

How to become an NBA referee

Interested in becoming an NBA referee? Here are some of the required NBA referee qualifications…

1. Learn all basketball rules

A referee needs to learn the rules of basketball, inside and out. When you all know the rules, you can easily detect violations and discern if a basketball play is properly done or not.

2. Get a high school diploma

The basic education requirement for NBA referees is a high school diploma or GED.

3. Start with youth basketball

When you are ready to give officiating a shot, you can start by officiating recreational youth games at your local park.

4. Get more experience with high school basketball

Once you have a taste of what’s it like, you can now register to officiate in high school games in your state.

5. Register to officiate in the NCAA

After getting more experience in high school basketball, you can now register to officiate in the NCAA—the biggest collegiate athletic association in the United States.

6. Try out for the NBA G League

Now that you’ve gathered solid experience in being a referee, it’s time to go professional. The NBA G League holds referee tryouts for qualified candidates.

7. Get promoted to the NBA

It’s only a matter of time to get promoted to the NBA. You just need to demonstrate your basketball knowledge and refereeing skills to prove that you’re worthy of officiating in the NBA.

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