How Much Do NBA Refs Make?

We know how much the athletes make. And we know the salaries of NBA water boys. And we also know salaries of NBA cheerleaders. But now, people want to know how much money do NBA referees make?

Referees are an important part of every professional sports event. It would be impossible to perform the game in regular circumstances without them. Referees monitor professional sports events in order to ensure the rules are followed. Obviously, they perform serious tasks and all have to be in perfect order especially when it comes to top-level games such as NBA. So, they have to be paid well because only satisfied workers are ready to give the maximum efforts despite the type of the profession. Read below to see NBA referee salaries and income:

NBA Ref Income and Salaries

The average salary for an NBA referee is reported to be around $300,000 per year. However, the exact salary can vary based on factors such as experience, performance, and seniority. Referees who have been working in the league for several years and have established a good track record can earn higher salaries, while those who are just starting out may earn less. In addition to their base salary, NBA referees also receive benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. It is important to note that this is a full-time job and referees work for the entire NBA season, which runs from October to June.

NBA games are broadcasted worldwide and millions or even billions of people watch them. The worth of an average NBA team is estimated at $1.25 billion, so the big money is in the game and each professional sports event generates a lot of cash through ads and commercials, sponsorships, tickets, and many other ways. Except for the clubs and their owners, NBA players take the biggest part of the profit.


Head couches take the second place and their salaries are the closest to the salaries of the NBA players. But referees also work full time on the position, and their average salaries move from $25,000 to $75,000. In comparison with the salaries of the players and head couches, this is not big at all. Also, referees of some other sports have higher wages than this one, and they sometimes perform less demanding work the lower amount of time involved in training, preparation, and on the field itself.

NBA Referees Average Salary

League and experience Per game earnings Yearly earnings
Professional-level referee $3,500 $300,000
Entry-level referee $600 $90,000
WNBA referee $425 $80,000

NBA Referee Job Requirements

For instance, an NBA referee has to work full-time for eight months during a season. The NBA team performs 82 games for the same period. All NBA referees have to be fully prepared for this demanding work that requires a total commitment. They have to be in a good fit and ready to perform all of the necessary tasks. It requires an excellent physical condition because observing the games at this level is a challenging and difficult job.

The referees have to know all of the rules and to implement them when the situation requires. The decisions must be accurate and precise. No one loves bad referees and such kind of the judge would not last long in the league. The NBA games are always played fast and the referee must keep the attention at the highest possible level. Fouls are often difficult to notice, so they have to follow the happenings on the field all the time.

NBA Referees Average Salary

The average annual salary of a referee goes form $150,000 to $550,000 depending on their working experience. The starting figure is an entry level while seniors reach much higher numbers. NBA referees usually begin a career with high school or college games and later advance to NBA. However, the starting salary might be even lower, according to the reports of The Sports Economist. It claims the lowest base salary was $91,000 in 2009.   Also, announced the referee’s salary was estimated at $95,000 to $300,000 per season in 2008.  In comparison with an average national salary of $45,000, those figures are not bad at all.

Even a beginner referee has a much higher salary than an average worker from another profession. But this job position offers some other benefits too. The referees are constantly on TV, meet NBA players regularly, and have three or four months pause. However, their average salary was not even close to this figure sometime in the past. The NBA referees earned yearly from $18,000 to  $78,300 a thirty years ago, but the currency was stronger then, and the equivalency will be a higher figure than the base amount.

The NBA is considered to be one of the best professional leagues in the world, and as a result, the salaries of its referees are also among the highest in the world. In addition to their base salary, NBA referees also receive a number of benefits and perks, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and travel expenses.

The job of an NBA referee is demanding and requires a high level of skill and knowledge. Referees must have a deep understanding of the rules and regulations of the game, as well as the ability to make quick and accurate decisions in high-pressure situations. They must also be physically fit and able to keep up with the fast pace of the game.

In addition to their on-court responsibilities, NBA referees must also maintain their fitness and stay up to date with the latest rules and regulations. They must also be able to work well as part of a team, communicate effectively with players, coaches, and other officials, and be able to handle criticism and pressure in a professional manner.

Overall, the salary and benefits of an NBA referee reflect the high level of skill and expertise required for the job, as well as the importance of their role in ensuring the fair and efficient operation of the league.

NBA Referee Senior Salary

Furthermore, when you divide the annual salaries of the NBA referees per week, you will get an exact amount of money. The highest annual salary stands at $550,000. It is a quite significant income that exceeds the national average salary for more than ten times. But when you divide it 82 times, you get $6,707.32 as a per game salary of the senior referees. It means they receive almost seven thousand dollars on a weekly basis. That is definitely more than enough even for a luxury lifestyle.

NBA Beginner Ref Salary

The beginner referees earn significantly lower amounts. Their per game salary stands at 1,829.27. The seniors earn much more, but the beginners also make nice amounts in comparison with beginner salaries of other professions. So the payout for the regular NBA season ranges between those two figures, however, the referees can make even more if they are assigned to the playoffs.

Playoffs Earnings

Per-game salary stands at $9,000 in the first rounds and at $29,000 in the finals 2008, according to the reports from the Officiating forum. Brett Poirier of Sheridan Hoops reported quite different figures several years ago. The referees made $4,500 for the first round, $10,540 for the second round, $24,790 for the semi-finals, and $24,790 for the finals, according to that statistic. Tim Donaghy, a former NBA official, said the referees can earn additionally $75,000 to $100,000 in the playoffs if they listen to the NBA’s recommendations. But they most likely get bonuses for the efficient and good work which increase their salaries further.

College Basketball Ref Salaries

College Basketball Referees, for example, earn more than $2,000 per game, and their season has more than 70 games. It means the annual salary stands at $150,000 approximately.

WNBA Ref Salaries

WNBA referees are paid significantly lower than those two categories above. The women’s league is not profitable and popular as the men’s NBA league, and that fact affects the earings. The WNBA referees make roughly $16,000 on yearly basis. It means they earn approximately $425 per game.


All in all, this is a profitable job that keeps its employees good physical condition. Of course, each NBA referee must keep a watchful, careful eye on the game at all times, as it can be a stressful job having to call plays and fouls on national television with 20,000 fans screaming at you. And of course, who can forget the Tim Donaghy scandal, which exposed the potential temptation that referees are vulnerable to. Though it seems highly unlikely that any NBA referee will want to supplement their salary with fixing bets, since the NBA has a strong anti-corruption unit.

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