While most of the headlines surrounding money in professional sports has to do with the players, everyone that’s a part of the game is getting paid – including the referees.
Considering the crazy travel schedules, the high level of stress and concentrations, and the millions of eyes that are on them every single night, NBA referee salary levels are very justified.
But just how much is an NBA ref salary? Here we answer that question and take a deep dive into the world of NBA officiating.
How Much Does an NBA Ref Make?
Unfortunately for the officials, when you compare an NBA referee salary to even a minimum NBA contract, it’s not even close.
However, the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) ratified a seven-year contract with the NBA in September 2022 and the details of their agreement are not known.
Perhaps NBA ref salary levels are higher now but we can only provide answers regarding their previous salary levels. In short, like most careers, NBA officials are paid based on their seniority, performance, and position on the court.
It’s estimated that first-year officials could be paid as low as $600 a game all the way up to $250,000 a year. Senior officials can be expected to be paid an average NBA ref salary of as much as $7,000 a game up to $550,000 a year.
This doesn’t take into account the obvious bonuses of being in the NBA, travel reimbursement, free tickets, healthcare, and other benefits.
Referees can also make a pretty penny if they are chosen to work playoff games, with new officials expected to bring in anywhere from $800 to $5,000 for each postseason game.
Veteran officials have reportedly made much more, bringing in an estimated amount between $9,000 for opening-round playoff games and $29,000 for each conference final and NBA finals game.
Who is the Highest-Paid Referee in the NBA?
While it’s impossible to know the highest-paid referees in the NBA due to the NBRA and NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, we can assume that the highest-paid officials are all making roughly the same for each game they officiate.
Here are the referees we believe are making $550,000 or more per year:
- James Capers
- Sean Corbin
- Tony Brothers
- Rodney Mott
- Scott Foster
- Ken Mauer
- Pat Fraher
- Tom Washington
- Marc Davis
What it Takes To Become an NBA Ref
If you want to become an NBA referee and earn that juicy NBA referee salary, you can start taking the first steps today. You must have a high school diploma and previous basketball playing experience is very much preferred.
First and foremost, you have to know the fundamentals of basketball. Knowing the NBA rulebook and the FIBA guidelines inside-and-out are paramount for success.
After that, you have to start locally by volunteering as a youth basketball referee and undergoing training. You’ll have to work youth basketball and document your experience game-by-game before eventually moving up to a high-school referee following the passing of an NFHS exam.
You’ll have to join either the IAABO (International Association of Approved Basketball Officials) and/or your local referee chapter to have access to training material, workshops, and job boards. You’ll need to pass several exams and gain a top reputation before you’re able to start working at the collegiate or international level (FIBA).
If you’re crushing it as a referee at the collegiate level and getting promoted to work March Madness games, there’s little doubt that you’ll be on the NBA’s radar. You’ll have to impress scouts and/or work some networking magic in order to get a chance.
Should you get that chance, you’ll have to undergo rigorous training and testing. This will include deep background checks, psychological tests, and several game scenarios to test your abilities under pressure.
If you’re able to impress those people, you’ll be invited to an NBA Officiating Camp, where you’ll undergo further training and attend seminars so you know how to deal with backlash and other situations. If you’re lucky enough to be offered a contract, sign your deal and get a fresh whistle!Being a referee is not an easy career but the NBA referee salary is extremely rewarding should you be fortunate enough to secure a contract. There are some referees that have been in the league for the better part of four decades thanks to their consistency and hard work.
If you believe that you have what it takes, we highly recommend going for it. You’ll be making a difference in your community in the short-term and become a true leader and professional in the long-term.
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- https://www.nba.com (National Basketball Association)
- https://www.nbra.net (National Basketball Referees Association)
- https://www.basketball-reference.com/referees/ (Basketball Reference)
- https://www.nbaofficials.com/ (NBA Officials)
- https://www.nfhs.org/ (NFHS)
- https://www.iaabo.org/ (IAABO)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_referee_travel_expense_scandal (Wikipedia)
- https://www.athleticbusiness.com/home/news/15149136/a-day-in-the-life-of-an-nba-referee (Athletic Business)