How Much Do NBA/WNBA Referees Make

Photo: nba.com

A basketball game cannot run smoothly without referees. Players always try to abide by the rules of the game, especially around tough referees like Ron Garrettson and Joey Crawford.

Trust me, those are two of the most well-respected referees in the NBA amongst players and coaches. While the refs are at every game, they definitely aren’t compensated like the players and coaches.

But how much do referees make?

Each team in the league – 30 teams – plays at least 82 regular-season games. Those games are broadcast to generate income through sponsorships and ads. NBA players always get the biggest slice of the pie, and referees receive the least percentage.

In this article, you are about to learn everything you need to know, and probably more, about a referee’s salary.

Job Requirements

An NBA referee must have a deep understanding of the rules combined with great judgment in order to make the right decision call after call.

He should also be physically fit because, just like for the players, an 82-game season, plus playoffs, is a grueling schedule for the refs.

What is the Work of a Referee?

Referees maintain order during games and ensure that the game is played correctly and at an orderly pace.

Referees are also expected to communicate with players and head coaches to maintain order between themselves and each team during a game.

After games, their work is not complete, as they watch game film and review their decisions just like the players and coaches do.

Not only do the refs watch their game film, but also film of the players so they can pick up on tendencies and stay abreast of the way different players play the game.

The Average Referee Salary

The average salary of an NBA referee ranges from $150,000 to $550,000 annually (source: Sportskeeda). Senior referees earn more than entry-level referees because they are more experienced.

From 1983, there has been a significant salary increment because referees used to make between $18,000 and $46,000 per year.

In the 2009-2010 season, the base salary for referees was $91,000: this was according to the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA).

While NBA referees don’t earn as much as NBA players and coaches, they are well compensated overall.

NBA Senior Referee Salary

Senior referees receive a salary of $550,000 per year. If you do the math, a senior referee earns $7,000, for a single game.

Entry-Level NBA Referees

Entry-level referees earn the least salary. They are paid $2,000 for a single game, which amounts to $150,000 annually.

When you compare this pay to that of other professions, the amount is relatively high. However, entry-level referees can earn some extra money in the playoffs.

Playoff Referee’s Salary

In the 2008 NBA playoffs, referees earned as high as $9,000 per game and $29,000 in the semi-finals and finals (source: Low Key NBA).

Referees, on average, earn $4,500 in the first round, $10,500 in the second round, and $25,000 in the Conference Semi-finals and NBA Finals.

WNBA Referee Salaries

The WNBA league is not as popular and profitable as the NBA, so the salaries of players, coaches, and referees are generally lower. They earn $450- $500 per game, which amounts to $16,000 a year.

Final Thoughts

NBA referees do not get the same recognition as big-time players like Stephen Curry and Lebron James, and that is fine with them. Their position in the game is to maintain the game’s order and ensure that correct calls are made throughout the game. It can be hard to make a decision in such a hostile environment, however, referees maintain their composure and generally make the right decisions.

Have you ever thought of becoming an NBA referee?

This article was contributed by Luke Zhang who runs Dunk or Three blog.