How much do NBA refs get paid?

NBA referees are responsible for officiating professional basketball games in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Their job is to enforce the rules and maintain fairness and consistency on the court. But how much do NBA refs actually get paid for this important role?

The Salary of NBA Referees

The NBA referee salary scale is determined by the league and the referee’s union. According to the current collective bargaining agreement, NBA refs are paid the following base salaries for the 2022-2023 season:

  • 0-2 years of experience: $150,000
  • 3-5 years of experience: $200,000
  • 6-10 years of experience: $275,000
  • 11-19 years of experience: $450,000
  • 20+ years of experience: $600,000

In addition to their base salary, referees also earn a per game fee during the regular season. For the 2022-2023 season, this per game fee is $3,900 for referees with 5 or fewer years of experience, and $4,750 for referees with more than 5 years of experience.

Veteran referees who have officiated more than 75 career playoff games also receive a bonus of $5,000 for each playoff game worked. Meanwhile, less experienced referees receive a bonus of $2,500 per playoff game.

Factors That Determine NBA Referee Salaries

There are several factors that determine how much NBA referees get paid each season:

  • Experience: As shown in the base salary scale above, an NBA ref’s salary is heavily dependent on their years of experience in the league. The more years served, the higher the guaranteed salary.
  • Performance: Referees who receive strong performance reviews and positive feedback from the NBA front office are likely to earn higher game fees and see salary increases.
  • Playoff Assignments: Working playoff games brings higher per game pay and bonuses. Referees need to be highly rated to receive lucrative playoff assignments.
  • All-Star Selection: Being selected for reffing duties at the NBA All-Star game comes with a sizeable bonus that can add around $50,000 for that season.

Overall, as referees gain more experience, perform well, and are selected for playoff and All-Star games, they stand to earn significantly higher pay.

The Highest Paid NBA Referees

While rookie referees start at around $150,000 in base salary, the highest paid NBA refs can earn over $600,000 per season when factoring in all bonuses and payouts.

Some of the top earning NBA referees for the 2022-2023 season include:

Referee Estimated Season Salary
Tony Brothers $650,000
Scott Foster $600,000
Dan Crawford $575,000
Derrick Stafford $550,000

These long time referees earn top salaries due to their 20+ years of experience, playoff game assignments, and consistent performance ratings.

Perks and Benefits of Being an NBA Referee

Aside from the strong pay, NBA referees also enjoy some excellent perks and benefits, including:

  • First-class flights and five-star hotel accommodations when traveling for work
  • Generous health insurance, life insurance, and pension plans
  • Access to top NBA facilities, games, and events
  • NBA referee merchandise allowance – $2,000 per season
  • Paid time off days, including a 50-day offseason

Career Path to Become an NBA Referee

How does one go about joining the exclusive ranks of NBA referees and earn six-figure pay? Here is a look at the typical career path:

  1. College Sports Refereeing: Most NBA refs start by officiating college basketball games after completing a college degree.
  2. Minor League Refereeing: The next step is getting experience reffing in the WNBA, G League, or other minor leagues.
  3. NBA Tryouts and Training: Talented prospects are invited to specialized NBA referee training camps and tryouts.
  4. NBA D-League Assignments: New referees work games in the NBA D-League to gain high-level experience before the NBA.
  5. NBA Advancement and Promotions: Based on performance, referees are promoted to part-time and eventually full-time NBA officiating roles.

The process takes a minimum of 7-10 years for most NBA referees. Only a select few go on to enjoy lucrative careers at the pinnacle of professional basketball.

How Much Do College Basketball Referees Make?

Before making the NBA, prospective referees need to gain experience officiating college basketball games. But how much do college basketball refs get paid?

The pay scale for college basketball referees depends on the level of competition:

  • Division 1: $3,000 – $3,500 per game on average
  • Division 2: $1,300 – $1,800 per game
  • Division 3: $400 – $750 per game
  • NAIA: $200 – $300 per game

Top Division 1 college referees who officiate March Madness and other major tournaments can earn $10,000 or more for a single event. But most earn under $50,000 annually during this early career stage.

Highest Paid Referees in Professional Sports

While NBA referees are very well compensated, they aren’t the highest paid officials in all of professional sports. Here is a look at the top earning pro league referees:

Sport League Average Referee Salary
Football NFL $200,000
Baseball MLB $235,000
Hockey NHL $325,000
Basketball NBA $550,000

Thetable shows that on average, NBA referees are the highest earners among major American sports. The significant pay reflects the pressure, scrutiny, and talent required to referee the world’s top basketball league.

The Future Outlook for NBA Referees

The career outlook for NBA referees looks strong going into the future. Here are some key factors contributing to the positive outlook:

  • The NBA continues to see strong growth in revenue, viewership, and popularity. This fuels demand for top refereeing talent.
  • Current referees are aging, with over 25% of NBA refs projected to retire within 5-7 years.
  • League expansion to new cities and countries will require more referees to cover the additional games.
  • Advancing technology like replay review places a premium on good referees who can utilize the tools.

With these trends, current and aspiring NBA referees can expect strong job security, more opportunities, and continued good compensation in the long run.


NBA referees earn sizable six-figure salaries that reflect their importance in upholding the integrity of professional basketball. With an average salary of around $550,000 including bonuses, they are the top paid officials in major American sports leagues. Salaries vary based on experience, performance ratings, playoff assignments, and years of service. While the career path is long, those who make it to the NBA officiating ranks are rewarded very well financially.

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