How Much Do NBA Refs Make?

Many people believe that players are the ones who bring excitement and enthusiasm into the game and turn the sport into a global event.

NBA referees may not enjoy the same celebrity status as the players in the league, yet they play a very crucial role in the game. They also have a very challenging job. Even if the crowd heckles them for a controversial decision, refs must ensure a fair match. 

Besides withstanding all this pressure, referees have to put in a physical effort like a player. They have to keep up the physical strain and run continuously throughout the game for an entire season. The ability to maintain both physical and mental fortitude is pretty inspiring.

So given the challenges in the job, how much do NBA refs make? Well, there is no specific amount. The salary of an NBA official will depend on certain factors, such as their experience and the league stage. 


What Is the Average Salary for NBA Refs?

The average salary of an NBA official ranges from $180,000 to $550,000 per year. In other words, even the bottom tier of refs earns a substantial sum. However, their salaries are a pittance compared to some of the NBA's stars, who earn upwards of 40 million per season.

As we mentioned, where a ref falls in the salary bracket largely depends on their experience and the game level they are overseeing. There are three categories of referees in the NBA: rookie refs, women's NBA (WNBA) refs, and senior officials.  

Moreover, referees are appointed different roles in the game depending on their experience and class. In addition, each game will have one crew chief and two assistants. In total, there are three refs per game, and their pay will depend on what role they fulfill. 

Rookie Ref Salary

There are two categories in the NBA; rookies and seniors. The average salary per game for entry-level referees (rookies) is around $600. Given the number of games in a regular season, this amounts to $250,000 per year in the men's league. 

However, after five years, a rookie ref could be promoted to a senior official. Once they've been moved up, they experience a hefty pay raise. 

WNBA Ref Salary

Since the league is not as famous or as big as the men's league, these are the lowest-paid referees in the NBA.

The WNBA only has 12 teams compared to the men's league, which has 30. Additionally, the WNBA attracts a smaller viewership which results in less money overall.


Therefore, WNBA refs make less than even the rookie refs in the men's league. On average, they can expect $425 per game. Since there are fewer teams and therefore fewer games, this only amounts to $180,000 per annum.

NBA Senior Official Salary

The best paid of the bunch are senior-level NBA referees. They make around $3500 per game, which is almost $550,000 per year in the league. 

However, this amount only accounts for games in the regular season. Referees that are chosen to oversee playoff games can expect an even better wage. 

Playoffs start and last through June. The audience typically finds playoffs more exciting. These are the most-watched games in the league and offer excellent opportunities to referees. The referees referred to the playoffs make around $5000 per game.

NBRA and Its Contributions

After working under harsh conditions, NBA refs united and formed the National Basketball Officials Association in 1972.

Afterward, they officially started a union called the National Association of Basketball Referees in 1977. Today, that union goes by the name the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA).


NBRA has been working for better salaries and working conditions for NBA referees since its inception. For example, in the 1977 playoffs, the NBRA went on strike.

Later on, the strike was settled, and NBRA was recognized as the only group representing the referees. Since then, NBRA has gone on strike multiple times in the league's history to protect NBA refs' rights.

In 2021, the NBRA decided to expand. It now includes officials in the G-league and WNBA as well.

Conclusion: NBA Referee Salary

To sum it up, there is no fixed salary for referees. However, NBA refs' salaries vary between $180,000 to 550,000. Although it's a wide range, even at the lower end of the scale, it is an incredibly lucrative job. 

Besides the competitive salaries, this job offers other incentives like free game tickets, signed items such as sneakers, and first-class flights to the games are all provided by the NBA. Moreover, NBA referees get comprehensive medical insurance and a good retirement plan.

Many things can make being an NBA ref appealing. It's a great opportunity for basketball lovers who are more interested in its theory than the playing. However, this job can be challenging, mentally and physically. So, one should be ready to bear the challenges to become a referee.

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast