How Much Do NBA Refs Make? Numbers And Interesting Facts

With the considerable presence of sponsorship, merchandise licensing, TV deals,… NBA (National Basketball Association) possesses a multi-billion dollar industry. As a result, it comes as no surprise that pretty much everyone involved with the game receives rather high salaries compared to the average occupations. However, while many people focus on the earning of the players, the coaches and the team managers, few care about the income of NBA referees. So how much do NBA refs make in a season? Is the prospect of employment good these kinds of days? Does the job require qualifications?

In the case you are interested in how much do NBA refs make annually, this article should come in handy. Down below, you would be provided with various estimates of the salary of people that regulate games in the NBA. In addition to that, there are comprehensive descriptions about the job such as workdays, employment requirements and other related issues. Generally speaking, NBA referees receive their fair share of reward but the career of supervising heated, full of contact basketball matches is by no means a walk in the park.   

Annual Salary Of NBA Refs

Depending on the experience, the usual earning per season of referees in the NBA ranges from $150,000 (entry-level) to $550,000 (senior). To put it plainly, the more experience an NBA ref gains, the higher his salary. Now, each team in the NBA play 82 games in a regular season so using simple calculations, the referee should earn roughly between $1,829.27 and $6,707.32 a match. The number increase by a wide margin in playoffs: refs could receive $4,500 – $9,000 in the first round and $24,790 – $29,000 in the final.

Since we are talking about refs in the NBA, we might as well cover WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association). Compare to their NBA counterpart, WNBA refs have significantly lower salaries with the average earning of $500 per match for a grand total of $16,000 a season. Therefore, it’s understandable that a lot of referees in the WNBA work part-time because of the low payment. As the league is unprofitable and often requires support from the NBA, it’s highly likely that the salary of WNBA refs would remain unchanged.

So how the earning of NBA refs fares against their colleagues in other common sports? With the salary of  $150,000 for entry-level ref and $550,000 for senior refs, NBA offers the second highest salary for refs. In the first place is the NFL (National Football League) and in the third place and fourth place are the MLB (Major League Baseball) and NHL (National Hockey League) respectively. Of course, the salary of the refs in each sport could change and there are always reputable referees than earn more than the nominal limit.   

Working As An NBA Referee
Working As An NBA Referee

Working As An NBA Referee

The ref plays an important role in every sport and the NBA is no exception. NBA referees need to keep their mind in the games at all time as a second distraction could permanently alter the outcome of the game. Normally, refs in the NBA work full time 8 month/year which is demanding so referees have to be physically fit. Standard duties of the refs involve introducing the teams, talking over the rules to the players, conversing with the coaches and finally, regulating the match. There are additional tasks as well like reviewing rule books, attending training camp, teaching newcomers…     

Frequently Asked Question And Answers About Refs In The NBA

  • So you must move regularly while working as a referee?

As mentioned above, NBA refs have to work 8 months/year, a part of that time would be spent on a home court and the rest on arenas across the nation. In order to cope with the working schedule, the referees obviously need to move around. That is why if you intend to pursue the career of an NBA referee, prepare to hit the road frequently.

  • How long does it take to become a seasoned referee?

On average, you should be able to reach the status of seasoned referees and its privileges after 3 – 5 years of employment. Needless to say, your performance on the court should be one of the decisive factors. So learn from others, take things at a steady pace and you are going to get what you desire eventually.

  • What are the benefits available to the refs in NBA?

The benefits vary from case to case but you could expect travel stipends, health insurance, retirement package and so on. In addition to that, NBA also provides the referees with an assortment of small-time bonuses such as snickers, tickets,… As a result, you could say that most NBA refs receive sufficient benefits for their hard work on the court.

  • All things considered, is the overall prospect of employment high?

The Bureau of Labor previously predicted that there would be a slight growth in the job market for sports officials, umpires and of course, referees. Hence, if you want to try to become a ref in the NBA, your chance is surely not half-bad. That being said, due to the high salary, you must prove that you are a competitive candidate for the job.    

  • How much pressure NBA refs have to face at work?

Well, if you are a basketball fan, you know that it’s the job of the refs to make the right call no matter what. However, it’s easier said than done, especially once refs have to thoroughly assess events that might decide the winner. The fans, the coaches and the players are eager to sway the decision of the refs into certain directions so the referees must stay strong.   

Getting Into The Industry: A Guide For NBA Ref Wannabe

After figuring out how much do NBA refs make, would you like to seek an opportunity to work with them? In the case you say “Yes”, here are a couple of issues that you always have to keep in mind. Take a good look at them and who knows, you might end up supervising NBA matches in the near future.

Basic Preparation For The Job

Regardless of the sport, you have to remember the rules to the letter in order to work as a ref. Hence, it’s a good idea that you start memorizing the rule book in your free time as a start. Next, being an NBA ref is quite demanding on the body which why you should work on your physical stamina. You only have a few moments to catch your breath while regulating the average NBA match so take training seriously. Finally, improve your communication skill in addition to the ability to make split-second decisions.

Getting Started: Step-By-Step

  • Step 1: High school

No officials in their right mind would ever grant you the right to supervise NBA matches on a whim, you must work your way up.  Therefore, drop by the local athletic association and see how you could become qualified for regulating high school-level games. By supervising matches in high school leagues, you should be able to gain valuable experience. Normally, you have to take an OHSAA class and then pass the final exam but those are only the beginning. Regulations differ from place to place but you most likely must take part in awareness and prevention of concussions training.    

  • Step 2: NCAA (National College Athletic Association)

After you get a feel of the water and see that you could take whatever throw at you, move on to registering with the NCAA. Once again, you have to take a test: the NCAA Men’s Basketball Officiating Exam. Assuming that you manage to pass that test, you could start working as a referee in college-level basketball matches. Virtually every new ref begins at Divisions 3 and 2 then moves up to Divisions 1 as they acquire more and more experience. It’s also an excellent opportunity for you to get accustomed to large crowds, heated atmosphere, heavy pressures and alike.

  • Step 3: NBA G League (And Hopefully, NBA)

Officially, NBA refs have no need to start in the G League but it’s worth noting that since 2002, NBA hires exclusively from the League. In order to join the League, you must register with the NBA and if you make a good impression, people shall invite you to tryouts. Refs that score reasonably well in the tryouts would then move on to a training camp for the final selection. If everything proceeds smoothly, you are going to be a ref in the NBA G League with up to 27 teams from 18 cities across the nation.

Advice For First-Time Ref

The duty of an NBA referee start before the game, you have to inspect everything on the court from the ball to the basketball hoop. After that, it’s of utmost importance that you carefully observe the players and ensure they match all NBA dressing regulations such as clothes, jewelry,… While you are at it, take a look at the active list, converse with official and captains from both teams.  Once you feel that there is nothing out of the ordinary, let the game begins and stay focus for the entire duration of the match.