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How much does an NBA referee make?

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Five
Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Five
Modified 26 Dec 2020, 10:41 IST

Being an NBA referee is a harder job than many people think, no matter how many fans believe they could do a better job or that their "grandma could have made a better call." They can be a team's hero or their greatest nightmare, depending on the night's call.

An NBA referee needs to be confident, stern, smart, and aware to make a call in a high-pressure environment with 20,000 fans cheering or booing at them. An underrated aspect of a referee is the physical fitness that they need to maintain during a game. Refs need to run up and down the court all game without a substitution or water break to ensure they are always in the right place to make the correct call.

With all these job requirements, it would be expected that an NBA referee is fairly compensated. This article will cover how much a ref makes and the different ranks a referee has.

An NBA referee payday

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics - Game Three
Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics - Game Three

The average salary for an NBA referee ranges fromย $180,000 to $550,000. There is such a drastic pay range because there are different statuses a referee can be.

An NBA referee is divided into three distinctions. There is the entry-level ref, the WNBA ref, and the senior-level referee. The entry-level referee is looked at as a rookie, and they make around $600 for each game they are a part of or about $250,000 a year if they are full-time.

A WNBA referee is paid the lowest of the distinctions and they make around $425 a game or about $180,000 a year.

The highest and final level an NBA referee can reach is the senior-level ref. For a referee to reach this status, they need to be in service for three to five years.


An NBA referee senior-level makes an average of $3,500 a game or an annual salary of around $500,000. The top referees are eligible to work the NBA playoffs and the NBA Finals. Any postseason game, an NBA referee is eligible to earn an extra $800 to $5,000 each game in addition to their salaries. The amount varies depending on the referee's status.

On top of an NBA referee's salary, regardless of their distinction, they also earn large compensation packages. Their packages cover travel stipends, insurance, and retirement plans.

Not bad for somebody in a Foot Locker costume.

All salaries are from Career Trend.

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Published 26 Dec 2020, 10:41 IST
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