How Much Do NBA Refs Make a Year?

In a thrilling basketball game, most eyes are on the competing teams. The scores miss, and dunks elicit intense emotions in both the players and spectators. Thousands of dollars are placed as bets, and relevant companies are all smiles. However, there is one important person that plays a pivotal role in any game; the referee.

Though not the main man of the match, the game can’t commence without him. His key responsibility is to make sure that the game is fair and safe. Each sport has its unique technicalities, and basketball is no exception. No wonder basketball enthusiasts endeavor to use Make Shots to enhance their understanding. Basketball is a fast game with numerous rules. 

Image Source: Unsplash

Generally, those who oversee it are called officials. They are strategically located in the court during the game. According to the NBA rulebook, the officials include the crew chief, one referee, and umpire. They all work in unison to ensure the games proceed with minimum issues.

NBA referees are constantly under pressure. They have to be on high alert to determine fouls and penalties. Of course, this will invite a lot of mocking from the players and fans. Additionally, sports analysts will have varied opinions on how the ref’s decisions influenced the final scores. Sometimes, they are considered biased. Nonetheless, he has an integral part in any match. What is expected to do?

Duties of a referee

  • Manage various aspects of the game, for example, style of play and emotions.
  • Ensures rules are followed.
  • Stops the game to allow for time-outs or after the match.
  • Consents to substitution by the coach.
  • Inspects player’s uniform to confirm whether there are any violations, e.g., wearing of jewelry.
  • Checks to see if scorers are present.
  • Going around the court to ensure it’s safe and of accurate dimensions.
  • Confirms that the equipment is in good condition. He ensures balls of the recommended pressure and the ring is firm. He should therefore arrive in good time to have the court ready.

Running back and forth is not an easy task for the referee. Add to the countless times he has to blow the whistle. Is the pay proportional to the amount of work done?

Salaries of NBA referees

Like many other jobs, payment varies with experience. The National Basketball Referees Association(NBRA) is the body that governs refs. They ensure their members are abiding by the code of conduct.

Basketballers are among the world’s wealthiest athletes. Professional players bank millions of dollars each season. Ironically, referees don’t receive as much. It’s only in recent years that more people are investing in the sport. As a result, referee’s salaries have increased.

 In most cases, veteran referees have higher paychecks compared to their counterparts, especially beginners. Generally, the average pay range is from $180,000-$550,000 per annum. The figure is for those working full-time. In the NBA, refs have ranked differently hence the disparities in payment.

  • Entry-level refs

They are also called rookies. For a single game, they will pocket $600 and earn up to $250,000 annually.

  • WNBA refs

In this category, payment is about $425 in a game but $180,000 for the year.

  • Senior-level refs

This is the highest rank. Most of these referees have been part of historical games. They often officiate NBA finals. A minimum of three years is required if one is to qualify for this top job.

How much do they earn? Around $500,000 in a year and $3,500 per game. Most refs will therefore work their way up the ladder to hold this senior position.

However, referees also earn extra bucks from postseason games. They make between$800-5000 for each game. Are there more benefits? Oh yes! Their uniforms and sneakers are free. Traveling and insurance expenses are paid. 

How long is an NBA season?

The season runs for a whole 7 months. During this period, each team plays 82 games. That means that the ref will be present in all the matches. That will require physical stamina. However, they still get at least 3 months of rest.

How they rise through the ranks

To be the crème de la crème, an individual has to put in their all. Fitness is essential since refs have to run throughout the 48 minutes of the game. Communication skills also help them convey messages appropriately.

Training starts from a young age. Later, they slowly sharpen their skills while in high school until they qualify for the NCCA. If they continue showing their prowess, they receive more knowledge in the Referee Training Camp. The top participants are selected for G-league games. Those who display exceptional qualities are chosen to referee in the NBA season.

Top NBA referees

During the clash of titans, it’s reasonable to expect lots of action. Qualifiers want to make it to the next round. In crucial games such as the finals, the senior-level refs are the best. Their years of experience enable them to be tactful in rule interpretation. For the players, it’s a make or break. 

Who are some renowned referees in the NBA? Joseph Crawford, Tony Brothers, Scott Foster, and Marc Davis. They have officiated hundreds of games, especially in the finals. They also train others on the job.

The bottom line 

People will focus on Lebron James during a match, but very few will notice the referee. Does this mean that his role is insignificant? By no means! If it wasn’t his observation, would Lebron have gotten a penalty shot that lit up the arena? 

Referees endure criticism and controversies. Emotionally charged players and fans often lash out at them. But at the end of the day, a ref got to do what a ref got to do. Besides, if he is doing it full-time, that’s how he is providing for his household. His rank will dictate how much he will take home. Playoffs also add to the amount since payment is per game. 

As taxing as the job is, it pays relatively well. The next time you enjoy an NBA series, don’t just ignore the ‘zebras.’ Give a thumbs up for their role in the court!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top