NBA Referees Salaries for This Season and Through the Years

NBA referees may not be the belles of the ball but they play an important role in the game. They ensure everyone follows the rules and the game goes on as planned, handling conflicts, fouls, and more. Considering that they are responsible for ensuring a fair and up-to-code game, it is natural to wonder How Much Basketball Officials Make per season. They obviously don’t earn the nine-figure salaries some players do but referring can be lucrative. Let’s take a closer look.

How Much Do NBA Referees Get Paid?

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much NBA referees make, recent projections place their annual salaries at between $180,000 and $550,000. Other estimates show that new referees earn a base salary of about $250,000. When these officials first enter the league, they earn a salary closer to the lower end of this estimate, with their wages increasing the longer they remain in it. Career Explorer Guide postulates that referee salaries rise by $30,000 per game during finals.

NBA referee salaries have increased steadily over the years. In 1983, NBA officials earned between $18,000 and $80,000 a season. The figures rose to between $72,000 and $177,000 in 1994 and a starting wage of $91,000 in 2009. Consequently, NBA refereeing is becoming more lucrative with time, which can be a motivating factor for people wishing to join the profession.

Referees in the WNBA earn about $425 per game or $180,000 per season – a significantly lower figure than that of NBA officials. This pay difference is also evident among players and is primarily due to the differing market sizes for the NBA and WNBA.

NBA Referee Vs. NBA Player Salaries

But while NBA referees make a sizable income, it does not come close to what NBA players earn. In fact, it is way lower than what even rookies make. Per the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, rookie NBA players cannot earn less than $898,310. This amount increases as the player spends more time with the league. Consequently, many NBA players earn way more than these, with some of the greatest names in the business taking home $40 million per season.

Among officials, pay is also determined by status. Entry level referees earn about $600 for every game, and this amount also increases the longer they stay in the league. All referees also receive benefits, such as retirement plans, insurance, and travel expenses.

Famous NBA Referees

Just as some notable NBA basketball players earn more than others, there is a select group of NBA referees who earn more than their counterparts due to gaining some level of celebrity status. These officials are so popular that their presence on the court can lead to speculations about certain aspects of the game. In this group, are notable names like Sean Corbin, James Capers, and Scott Foster.

This senior level of refereeing in the NBA can be attained by working with the league for between three and five years. This distinction earns referees about $3,500 for every game they officiate and an annual salary of approximately $500,000. Additionally, they qualify for the opportunity to officiate postseason games where they can make up to $5,000 for every game.

How Many NBA Referees Are There?

The NBA has not yet released the 2022-23 season roster. However, there were 9 non-staff officials and 75 full-time officials in the league last season.


Officiating NBA sports can be intense – it is more likely to draw criticism than praise. The high-stakes world of basketball can also be relentless and unforgiving. That is why it is important to know that NBA referees are well compensated for their work.