Whether it’s an infamous name listed as an official for a big game, a questionable ejection or even a gambling or travel expense scandal, refereeing is mostly a thankless job in the NBA.
It can also be a lucrative one.
While NBA officials don’t have nine-figure deals like some of the players they are calling fouls on, they still get sizable checks for patrolling games.
So just how much do NBA officials get paid? There isn’t a clear-cut answer.
Here’s a look at paydays and more for NBA referees.
How much do NBA referees get paid?
There is no consensus answer to how much money NBA referees are paid by the league.
NBA referees earn an estimated salary between $150,000 and $550,000 each year, according to Sportskeeda. Career Trend estimated that the base salary for new referees in 2018 was $250,000, while Career Explorer Guide estimated that the lowest professional referee salaries were $180,000 for 2021.
Entry-level referees are on the lower end of that scale and receive larger paydays the longer they are in the league. Career Explorer Guide also estimated that a referee's salary can increase by $30,000 a game during the NBA Finals.
The figures referees receive today are nearly 10 times higher than it was in 1983, when officials made between $18,000 and $80,000 per season. In 1994, the estimated referee salary was between $72,000 and $177,000, according to Deseret. In 2009, NBA referee salaries began at $91,000, according to The Sports Economist.
What is the NBRA?
NBA referees banded together in 1973 to form the National Basketball Officials Association after enduring unfit labor conditions. An official union, called the National Association of Basketball Referees, was created in 1977 and is known today as the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA).
The NBRA voted to strike during the 1977 NBA playoffs. After fans and players ripped the replacement officials hired by the league, the NBA settled the strike and recognized the NBRA as the sole bargaining group for referees.
The NBRA has encountered strikes and lockouts in the 44 years since its founding. In 2017, the NBRA expanded to include officials for the G League and WNBA.
How many referees are in the NBA?
There are 75 full-time NBA officials for the 2021-22 season along with nine non-staff officials. You can read the league’s full list here.