- Top NBA referees are paid handsomely.
Experienced referees like Scott Foster and Tony Brothers will be assigned to the biggest games and playoff series.
How much do NBA referees make?
NBA referee salaries are inevitably a hot topic. The officials in the world’s best basketball league are under the spotlight all year long, with controversy inevitable.
Their decisions can go a long way to swinging NBA odds, whether they are ejecting star players or making a pivotal call in crunch time.
It’s rare officials are praised, making it an unforgiving role. Fans and commentators are quick to question their decisions.
Even in the heat of a live betting contest, you will see NBA referees facing criticism from players and coaches alike. This isn’t a job for the faint-hearted, particularly in the hostile environment of Playoff games.
NBA Referee Salary:
NBA fans will be familiar with the high-profile referees. These officials are seen talking to camera when replay is used, and will often be shown in conversation with the league’s greatest stars.
Naturally, officials are not as well compensated as the coaches and players, but there’s still plenty of money to be made throughout a career as an NBA referee.
Let’s learn a bit more about the life of an NBA referee and how much you can earn as an official in the biggest basketball league in the world.
How Much Are NBA Referees Paid?
The salary for an NBA referee varies considerably based on their experience and pedigree.
Starting off at $600 per game or around $250,000 per year, rookie officials are still handsomely compensated. The veterans can receive up to $3,500 for a game and $550,000 per year.
While those numbers are impressive compared to ordinary salaries in the US, it is still considerably lower than the 2023-24 veteran minimum of roughly $1.1 million.
The greatest NBA players currently in the league earn tens of millions per year, with some contracts guaranteeing annual salaries exceeding $60 million in years to come.
Like the players, WNBA referees earn significantly less than their NBA counterparts.
Most reporting indicates WNBA officials receive around $425 per game with an average salary in the $180,000 ballpark.
Alongside their salaries, it is important to note that NBA and WNBA officials also see their expenses covered for travel and insurance.
There are pensions in place, too. Officials are represented by the NBRA, the National Basketball Referees’ Association.
NBA Officials Roles:
In the NBA, there’s one lead official who takes on the role of crew chief. They are accompanied by one referee and one umpire.
The umpire will take on a lot of play calling. According to the NBA website, the umpire is responsible for ‘basic mechanics including rotations, positioning and clock and team foul awareness’.
The umpire will have in-depth knowledge of all rules and will have the focus on the main action in the game.
The referee is going to have a broader view of the game. They are less responsible for straight forward foul calls on the ball, but will be looking for off-ball indiscretions like moving screens or paint violations.
Referees are described as the ‘glue’ of an officiating crew by the NBA’s website.
The best referees use their basketball knowhow and officiating experience to be aware of altering game state.
This includes noting hard fouls, an increased pace of play and potential for bad blood between certain players or teams.
The crew chief is generally the most experienced in a given refereeing group – they are at the forefront for major decisions, and are considered the leader of the group.
All officials will communicate throughout a game. They come together to debate decisions, and they are also helped out by video replay at times.
NBA Video Replays:
A coach’s challenge was introduced for the 2019-20 NBA season.
It has been a debate-provoking topic since then, with coaches forced to use up timeouts and the game often being slowed down considerably by these challenges. The issues facing the NBA are similar to what we have seen in the Premier League and NFL.
The majority of plays are reviewable. Fouls committed by star players will often be reviewed in the hope of evading foul trouble, while late-game out-of-bounds calls are also popular with coaches.
Video replay is often used without a coach’s challenge, and this can be crucial in determining which team has possession or how long should be on the shot clock.
For the 2023-24 season, a minor tweak was announced to coach’s challenges. Coaches will now receive a second challenge if their first attempt is successful.
They still need a timeout to be able to use this challenge, however, and will not retain their used timeouts even if their challenges are successful.
Video replays have broadly helped NBA officials. Of course, there are still big calls that they get wrong, and these are often highlighted in the final two-minute report.
Famous NBA Referees:
Scott Foster and Tony Brothers are two of the most well-known current NBA referees.
Foster and Brothers are often given the high-profile matchups, and have a wealth of postseason experience between them.
Past NBA stars had to deal with different NBA refereeing personalities, including Mike Mathis, who enjoyed a long refereeing career from 1976 through to 2001. Mathis officiated in 12 NBA Finals.
Monty McCutchen is a recognisable name for basketball fans, too. McCutchen is now working to train referees – he first officiated an NBA game in the 1993-94 season. Fans will often see McCutchen explaining refereeing decisions during game broadcasts.
Other famous former NBA referees include Bob Delaney, Richie Powers and Dan Crawford.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*