Average NBA Referee Salary 2017 – How Much do NBA Refs Make

A billion dollar sport, the National Basketball Association’s pro games can gain millions upon millions of viewers per year, with jerseys being sold worldwide. The coaches, players and even announcers are world renowned names, with fans who have never even been to the cities they represent. However, there is an unsung hero of the sport: Referees. Now, it doesn’t mean that “unsung” equals unpaid. Here, we take a look at the salary of a NBA Referee and how to become one.

Average Salary for a NBA Referee 2018 – $175,000

For an average of 82 games, a typical NBA referee makes around $175,000 a year. This equates to a little over $2,000 a game which makes for quite a nice wage, especially considering it’s far less than your average 8 hour day. Now, unlike some referees (NFL’s refs come to mind) this is a little harder to work a second job around, although due to the small demand for NBA referees is small at around 60 people, it’s advised prospective referees keep a day job. If you’re willing to take a bit of a gamble and are interested in becoming an NBA Referee, read on.

How to become a NBA Referee – Do you need to go to school?

Now, becoming a Referee is a bit more involved than just filling out an application. Think of it as the top of a very long ladder, and at the bottom is likely back in high school or community centers. To get started with these, one has to study the rules of basketball (and watching of course helps so you can try to test your knowledge) and usually sign on with a state officiating association. These will get you the needed certifications so you can work on your referee skills and get some much needed work experience. You’ll have to stay on for a few years, but then can start climbing. Next, climbing into a Junior College or NCAA Camp position is almost always needed (some do apply with just high school experience, but this is rare especially with increased competition). If going for the NCAA, one can expect being officials for Divisions 2 or 3, and with a few more years experience can start officiating Division 1 games which often lead to more recognition and ability to show that big crowds don’t affect your judgment.

Next, you can finally get scouted for in the Officiating Candidate Pool for the NBA. If you make it to the top 100, you go through a training and evaluation period, which takes about 3 months. First, you’re entered into the Grass Roots camp, and are evaluated for advancement to the Mid-Level Camp and eventually the Elite Camp is so successful. Those who do well, but not exactly so well as to advance may have an eye kept on them and be given another year to hone their skills. If tapped for advancement from that, one can go on to the NBA G league (also known as the Summer League which can go from playoffs to preseason) or be hired on as a full referee, or even do both. Further refinement is then done for the following months until one can be selected for either the NBA or WNBA.


Sadly, if one is selected for the WNBA, the pay is remarkably less to the point of matching player discrepancies in terms of salary. One can expect maybe $20,000 a year at this time, though this may progress over time. However with experience one can reapply for NBA selection later, and may be hired on given the superior experience. To register for this entire process, one can visit the official NBA Officials website and can expect about a year and a half for the process to go from starting the selection to starting in the big leagues. When finally working for the NBA, one is responsible for more than just play rules, and are expected to inspect everything from the balls to the score equipment. They may also in rare cases be asked to be representatives of the NBA and be a part of an occasional interview.


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