NBA referees have arguably one of the toughest jobs in the entire world of sports. When they get a call right, they get criticized. When they get a call wrong, they get criticized. So, is getting an earful from players and fans each game actually worth it?
How much do NBA referees make?
Believe it or not, NBA referees make a pretty decent living and are actually one of the higher-paid officials in American sports. Of course, they don't make nearly as much as the players, but they do also get benefits such as health insurance, travel stipends, and retirement plans. On average, refs get paid anywhere from $250,000 to $550,000 a season.
There are three levels of income when you're an NBA referee, and the pay is based on years of experience and performance. When you're a rookie, the wages start at $600 per game, which translates to $250,000 a season. Then after being around the league for three to five seasons, referees can make $3,000 a game, which is clearly way more than what rookie referees make. The highest paid refs made $550,000 last season, and as per Boardroom are the following:
- Ken Mauer
- Tom Washington
- Scott Foster
- Tony Brothers
- Sean Corbin
- James Capers
- Rodney Mott
- Marc Davis
- Pat Fraher
- Eric Lewis
The wages of an NBA referee increase during the postseason
Not all referees are eligible to officiate games in the playoffs. With over 72 refs working in the 2022-2023 season, only a few are handpicked to be in games where the intensity is on a different level. And no matter how impressive a rookie is in his or her first season, the postseason is reserved for folks with more than five years of experience.
The rate per game jumps from $3,000 in the regular season to $10,000 in the first two rounds. In the semifinals and finals, a ref can make $29,000 a game.
If you have plans on becoming an NBA ref, here are the steps to doing so as per Sportskeeda:
- Earn a high school diploma.
- Work as a referee in a youth basketball league.
- Register to work as a high school athletics coach.
- Apply as a referee in the NCAA.
- Attend referee tryouts for the NBA G League.
- Ask for a recommendation to work as an NBA referee.