Refereeing is generally a miserable profession in the NBA, whether it’s a notorious name designated as an official for a big game, a dubious expulsion, or even a gambling or travel cost controversy.
However, it may also be financially rewarding. NBA officials still receive large payouts for policing games, despite not having contracts worth nine figures like some players they call fouls on.
So how much money do NBA officials make? There isn’t a simple solution. Here is a look at NBA referee salaries and other information.
How Much do the NBA Referees Get Paid?
There is no simple answer to how much the Referees are paid by NBA each season. Sportskeeda estimates that NBA referees make between $150,000 and $550,000 annually. According to Career Trend, the starting compensation for new referees in 2018 was $250,000, and according to Career Explorer Guide, the lowest professional referee salaries would be $180,000 in 2021.
On the bottom end of the list are the fresh referees, who earn more money the longer they work for the league. According to Career Explorer Guide, a referee’s pay might rise by $30,000 per game during the NBA Finals.
Referee salaries are now almost ten times more than in 1983 when they ranged from $18,000 to $80,000 per season. According to Deseret, the referee’s annual salary ranged from $72,000 to $177,000 in 1994. According to The Sports Economist, NBA referee pay started at $91,000 in 2009.
After enduring unhealthy working conditions, NBA referees united to join the National Basketball Officials Association in 1973. In 1977, the National Association of Basketball Referees, which is now known as the National Basketball Referees Association, became a recognized union (NBRA).
The NBA playoffs of 1977 saw a vote by the NBRA to go on strike. The NBA ended the strike and acknowledged the NBRA as the only referees’ union after spectators and players derided the league’s replacement officials.
In the 44 years since its establishment, the NBRA has seen strikes and lockouts. The WNBA and G League referees were added to the NBRA in 2017.
Number of Refs at NBA
For the 2021–22 NBA season, there will be nine non-staff officials and 75 full-time officials.