how much do NBA Referees make

How Much Do NBA Referees Make?

NBA referees hold a significant influence over the game but how much is this influence worth in cash. We constantly hear about the payment structure for NBA players, but what about the highly influential referees ?

In this blog post, I’ll delve into the details of how much do NBA referees make. We will look into the factors that contribute to their earnings along with the intricacies of being an NBA referee.

NBA Referee Salary

Basic Salary

NBA referees receive a base salary that forms the foundation of their compensation package. This salary does depend on seniority and performance. Even at the base level, NBA referees land in the top 10% of earners in the United States.

New referees entering the profession start with a compensation of $600 per game, amounting to an approximate annual income of $250,000.

On the other hand, experienced and professional referees command a per-game pay of $3,500, potentially earning up to $550,000 annually.

Per-Game Payments

In addition to their annual salary, NBA referees receive payment for each game they officiate. This per-game payment is a significant part of their overall compensation and can vary depending on the referee’s experience level. Mentioned above are payments from $600 to $3,500 per game but numbers upwards of $6,000 per game have been reported. Playoff games and special events like the All- Star Game may reflect a different price point for referees.

Experience and Seniority

Similar to players, NBA referees see an increase in their earnings as they gain more experience and seniority. Referees who have demonstrated consistent performance and officiated numerous games over the years receive higher compensation. The league recognizes the importance of retaining experienced officials to maintain the quality of officiating.

Playoff Bonuses

Officiating playoff games is a prestigious achievement for NBA referees, and it comes with financial rewards. Referees earn additional bonuses for each round of the playoffs they officiate, culminating in a substantial bonus for those selected to work the NBA Finals. These playoff bonuses contribute significantly to the overall income of NBA referees.

Highest Paid NBA Officials

  • Ken Mauer: Entering his 35th season.
  • Tom Washington: Entering his 30th season.
  • Scott Foster: Entering his 29th season.
  • Tony Brothers: Entering his 29th season.
  • Sean Corbin: Entering his 26th season.
  • James Capers: Entering his 26th season.
  • Rodney Mott: Entering his 23rd season.
  • Marc Davis: Entering his 23rd season.
  • Pat Fraher: Entering his 20th season.
  • Eric Lewis: Entering his 17th season.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, being an NBA referee is considered a full-time job. Despite the NBA season having a defined schedule, referees engage in year-round activities, including training camps, workshops, and rule reviews, to stay sharp and up-to-date with the evolving nature of the game.

Becoming an NBA referee is a challenging process that requires a combination of experience, skill, and dedication. Prospective referees typically start by officiating at lower levels, such as high school or college basketball. From there, they may progress to the NBA’s officiating development program, where they undergo rigorous training and evaluations. The NBA selects referees based on their performance and potential to handle the intensity of professional games.

Unlike NBA players, there are no strict height requirements for NBA referees. However, most NBA referees are of average height, ranging from around 5’8″ to 6’3″. Being of average height allows referees to move quickly and efficiently on the court, keeping up with the fast-paced nature of the game.

While a college degree is not explicitly required to become an NBA referee, it is highly recommended. Many successful NBA referees have college degrees, and the NBA officiating development program often considers education as a factor in the selection process. Additionally, having a solid educational background can enhance a referee’s understanding of the game and its rules.


NBA referees play a pivotal role in the world of professional basketball, and their compensation reflects the demands and responsibilities of their job. The NBA makes tons of money, like many leagues and teams, so it’s only fitting that there be plenty of funds to spread around.