How much do NBA refs make?

In this context, you will find out the amount of salaries of basketball referees in the NBA league. When we watch one basketball game, the focus is mostly on the players and their fantastic moves, but someone has to control that the game goes according to the rules of the basketball game. The people who take care of it are of course referees. 

How much does NBA referees earn

The players have incredible contracts, so a good part of them have contracts worth several hundred million dollars. Judges on the other hand are paid much less for their services than top NBA players. Their annual earnings are less than the earnings of any rookie player. The top referee will earn several hundred thousand dollars during one season, while the top player will earn several tens of millions during one season. 

The salary ratio is probably not correct and the referees should be paid more for their work because they experience everything when they make a decision that is not in line with the opinions of the main actors in a particular game. 

The job of a referee is not easy and often the referee is on the wallpaper when the game is over because always one side thinks it is damaged… However, the job of a referee can be well paid, and “Sports Economist” brings us information about NBA referees’ salaries in today’s league. 

NBA Referees Salary [How Much Do Referees Make In The NBA]

Salary of NBA Referee

The salary for a judge in the NBA league ranges from 150,000 to 550,000 dollars a year, and in 2018, judges earned an average of 250,000 dollars a year, while in 2021, a judge earned at least 180,000 dollars, says “Sportskeeda”. According to the “Career Explorer Guide”, a judge in the NBA finals received up to $ 30,000 per game, and for example, in 1983, they earned from 18,000 to 80,000 dollars a year. 

Already in 1994, the salary increased, so NBA judges earned from 72,000 to 177,000 dollars, so in 2009 the NBA league raised it to a minimum of 91,000 dollars in one year. The NBA currently has 75 referees for the 2021/22 season. 

We can say that the referees have decent salaries, but it seems that those salaries could be higher because they do a really responsible job and in addition they suffer a lot of pressure from both the players and the audience during the entire match. 

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Judges are reprimanded when they make a mistake, but they are just people and in every job mistakes happen and so do theirs. Players on the other side will also sometimes not make the right decision for their team, but they will earn several million dollars each. 

Referees are incomparably less paid and yet they suffer unbearable pressures and in almost every game they are criticized by players, coaches that sometimes exceed the limits of sportsmanship. Of course, the fans are also inclined to address a few unpleasant words to the referees.

There are situations when the referees become the main actors in the match, which is certainly not good when they do not withstand a lot of pressure and then make big mistakes that can affect the outcome of the match. These situations are, of course, much rarer than those in which judges do their job completely correctly. Just as top players earn a huge amount of money and average players and players who are just coming to the NBA much less, so there are differences in earnings among judges.

NBA referee earning on average in Play-offs

 The average NBA referee will earn $ 10,000 per game in the first rounds of the NBA playoffs. There is an incredible difference in earnings between NBA referees and referees outside the strongest basketball league in the world. The average non-NBA judge will earn $ 16 per hour, which would be almost $ 33,000 annually.

NBA judges, as we mentioned, will earn five times and some ten times more money than non-NBA judges. In Europe, the atmosphere is even more flammable than in the USA, and judges are under enormous pressure, and in some halls they may be hit by hard objects. There is no need to waste words on insults from players and coaches. 

We can say that the judges are really doing a thankless job that should seem to be paid even better. As expected, referees in the NBA, which is the strongest league in the world, are much better paid than referees in some other leagues around the world, but when you look at how much money is spent in the NBA, earning a few hundred thousand dollars is probably not fair. Judges do a very challenging job. Of course, it is not easy for the players either, but some of them earn several hundred million dollars.

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Both players and referees must be adequately physically prepared in order to be able to spend one season in the right way. Referees must be focused during all 48 minutes, which is not easy in principle, and mistakes must be made, but referees must try to keep the number of mistakes as small as possible, because otherwise they will experience even more unpleasant reactions from players, coaches and spectators. Judges must therefore possess both physical and mental strength in order to do their job properly. 

They must position themselves in the right way to keep track of all events on the ground and potential violations of the rules. How much a referee will earn in the NBA depends on his experience, which is a similar situation as with the earnings of players, because a top referee and a player cannot earn the same, and on the other hand, referees and players who are beginners.

Salary of WNBA Referee

Judges move from entry-level and then advance to senior-level. In order to reach the senior level, a referee must have played for at least five years in the strongest basketball league in the world. WNBA judges earn significantly less than their male judges. A judge who is a rookie in the NBA or entry-level will earn about $ 600 per game which means he will earn almost $ 250,000 a year. Judges who are already experienced, and who have already become professionals in their work, will earn five times more than beginners. A seasoned referee will earn about $ 3,500 per game. That means that judge will earn $ 550,000 annually. There is a difference in earnings when it comes to regular-season games and playoff games.

Senior-level judges will have the opportunity to earn extra money in the playoffs, but that money is at the level of the average salary in the regular part of the season. What should be noted is that NBA judges have adequate medical insurance and retirement plans. In the WNBA, referees are paid much less because the popularity of that league is still much lower and there are much fewer games played compared to the NBA. Entry-level referees will earn just over $ 400 per game in that league, so their salary during the season will be around $ 16,000. Judges in the NBA have a lot of work to do during the season because as many as 82 games are played in the regular season. After that, we watch the playoffs, and if a team wants to win the championship ring, they will have to play almost 100 games. The judge will experience special pressure in the playoffs, because then the fight for the title starts.

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The situation in the regular part of the season is a bit more comfortable for them, because their decision will not be criticized as fiercely as when it comes to the playoffs. Quite unexpectedly, since the matches in the playoffs carry much more pressure, it is not logical that judges who do not have much experience take care of justice in those matches. 

As a rule, these matches are awarded to senior level judges who still have much more experience and have already referred to this type of match many times. During the first two rounds of the playoffs, the referees will earn $ 10,000 per game while in the semifinals and finals the salary jumps to $ 30,000 per game. Referees have certain privileges as their travel to the games is paid for by the NBA. Like the players throughout the season, the referees travel all over the USA, which is very tiring for both the teams and the referees.


Only a few days a month, judges are released from the obligation to travel somewhere. NBA referees are the highest paid in the USA because in no other sport such as MLB, NFL, NHL judges do they earn as much as their NBA counterparts. The current salary is even inadequate compared to everything that the referees experience during the season, and almost every player is paid better than them. 


Regardless of that fact, NBA judges are almost certainly satisfied with their salaries. 

As in any other job, beginners earn less but after a few years their earnings increase several times. Their job is not easy at all, and they experience especially unpleasant situations after the mistakes that are talked about in the next few days. Because of all that, in the coming years, we should consider increasing the salaries of judges so that they are close to the salaries of some of the beginners or average players in the NBA.

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