NBA Referee Salary In 2024

Have you ever wondered how much NBA referees get paid?

While they might be frequently criticized for making dubious calls and basketball players venting their ire toward them, let’s face it, NBA referees play a vital role in the sport.

You are not alone in wondering what the average NBA referee’s salary is. Like most basketball fans, I also wonder how much NBA referees earn.

We all know that NBA players are paid a lot. NBA coaches are paid a lot as well, and even assistant coaches are making more than they should. So, how much do NBA officials make? Let’s find out!

What Is the Average NBA Referee Salary?

Like most jobs, there are different classifications for an NBA referee. NBA referees’ salaries go higher depending on their years of experience and expertise.

Entry-level referees are the most inexperienced NBA officials, and surely so, they have the lowest average annual salaries, making around $250,000 or around $600 a game.

How Much Do NBA Referees’ Annual Salaries Go For?

According to the National Basketball Referees Association, NBA officials make an average of $180,000 to $ 550,000 per year.

For context, seasoned or professional referees outside of the NBA make ONLY $16 per hour, equivalent to $33,000 per year. If that’s the case, NBA officials are paid a lot!

  • Entry-level Referee Salary – novice officials’ estimated referee salary is around $250,000 per year or $600 per game.
  • Seasoned or Professional Referee –these referees make more than $3,500 per game or $550,000 per year.

Additional compensation is made throughout the year if they are tasked to official NBA Playoff games and even during the NBA finals.

Postseason games officiated by a veteran referee have their perks, too, like first-class flights, game tickets, and even sneakers are amongst its perks. 

The figures referees receive today are almost ten times higher than they were decades ago.

However, it is not all money and perks. A career as an NBA referee can be demanding both physically and mentally. Watch this clip to see what it takes to be an NBA referee.

How Much Were NBA Referees Paid in NBA Playoff Games?

After the NBA season is over and the NBA playoffs start, senior-level NBA referees are making more than the average regular season game.

Simply put, there is no consensus answer as to how much these officials are earning. However, one thing is certain: they earn more than their regular games officiated.

What Is the National Basketball Referees Association?

NBRA, or the National Basketball Officials Association, was formed in 1973. This union was formed as NBA referees banded after enduring unfit labor conditions, thus forming the National Association of Basketball Referees.

However, in 1977, an official union was officially formed, thus, naming the National Basketball Referees Association. This union voted to strike during the 1977 NBA playoffs.

The reason behind the strike was players, and fans ripped the replacement officials hired by the National Basketball Association.

Eventually, the NBA settled the strike, and the NBRA has since been recognized as the sole bargaining group for referees.

Throughout its 44 years of existence, the union has faced strikes and lockouts, and by the start of 2017, they have expanded its range and included G-league referees and WNBA officials.

How Did NBA Referee Salaries Evolve Throughout the Years?

The referee’s salary today is more than it was back in the day. For context, a referee’s salary in 1983 was around 18,000 to 80,000.

In the 2000s, NBA referee salaries began at $91,000, almost 5 to 8 times higher than before.

In addition, some referees are popular for the wrong reasons, but more often than not, they have become seasoned vets when it comes to officiating, which is why they are always frequented in games.

Some select groups of referees have gained celebrity status, and these select groups of referees are considered the cream of the crop. Referees such as Scott Foster, Sean Corbin, and James Capers

Who Are the Highest-Paid Referees in the NBA?

As I have mentioned, entry-level referees, like new referees, are paid the lowest, meaning most of these highest-paid referees are already long-tenured ones. So, who is the highest-paid referee in the NBA?

Tony Brothers – $550,000

Tony Brothers served as a CBA official for four years. He has also achieved celebrity status and has frequenting playoff games for a decade.

He has officiated 140 playoff games and more than 1,400 regular season games.

Tom Washington – $550,000

Tom Washington is already an experienced official. He has been officiating over 1,600 games and 170-plus games in the playoffs. How much do NBA referees make? Well, Tom is earning an impressive $550,000 annually.

James Capers – $550,000

James Capers is one of the more popular NBA refs in the league. He has officiated two all-star games and three championship games to his resume.

He has officiated 10 finals games and almost 1,400 games in 24 seasons. He has been around the league for a long time and has been one of the more notable referees.

Sean Corbin- $550,000

Sean Corbin is most notable for officiating the triple-overtime thriller between Boston Celtics and Vancouver Grizzlies. He has officiated more than 1,300 regular season games and 79 games in the playoffs.

Marc Davis- $550,000

Marc has officiated more than 1,300 games in the NBA and is also among the highest-paid ones. He also officiated 12 finals games.

Eric Lewis- $550,000

While he spent a few seasons in the G-league and USBL, he has since been officiating for the NBA. He has officiated over 900 games and more than 46 games in the playoffs.

Scott Foster- $550,000

Scott Foster has more than 1,400 officiated games and 187 playoff matches in his repertoire. Scott has a base salary of $550,000, making him one of the highest-paid referees in the league.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you have additional questions regarding NBA referee salaries, you might find some answers below.

How Many Referees Work in the NBA?

While the NBA organization has yet to release the complete roster of NBA refs count for this current season, there were 75 full-time and nine non-staff officials and NBA refs last season.

The league releases the refereeing assignments daily at 9 am eastern time.

What Is the Average Salary of a Referee in the WNBA?

The average salary for a WNBA referee often starts at around $425 per game, making them the lowest-paid referee.

They have the lowest salary because the WNBA season is short, consisting of only 34 games. In addition, it is less watched, resulting in lower income for the organization.

How Much Money NBA Referees Are Paid?

NBA referees earn a lot. As I’ve mentioned above, they are earning around $550,000 per year. The base salary for new referees is around $600 per game.

However, depending on the association’s collective bargaining agreement, it can change for the better. They earn more than NFL referees, earning around $205,000 per year.

Conclusion

Calling a questionable ejection, patrolling games, and calling fouls are all included in the job title of being an NBA referee.

They often draw flak for their missed calls, and most of the time, being a professional official in the NBA is a thankless job. Even the Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said NBA officials are “ruining the game.”

The salaries of NBA referees are high. However, they are often at the receiving end of frustrations, anger, and, worse, a travel expense scandal.

Still, NBA Referees’ salaries are high, considering other referees in different sports.