Celtics

NBA referees salaries for this season and through the years

Celtics

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.

The most recent estimations put NBA referees annual salaries between $180,000 and $550,000. Other projections put the base salary for new referees somewhere around $250,000.  

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. Even looking back a decade ago demonstrates the exponential growth of referee salaries. In 2009, NBA referee salaries began at $91,000.

 

There’s a select group of referees who have even earned some degree of celebrity status, frequenting playoff games and even leading some fans to speculate about potential disputes or issues they have with players and coaches. This group -- considered to be the cream of the crop around the league -- include names like Scott Foster, James Capers and Sean Corbin. These veterans are believed to be some of the highest-paid referees in the league. 

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?

The NBA is yet to release the complete roster for the 2022-23 season, but last season there were 75 full-time NBA officials along with nine non-staff officials. The league releases the refereeing assignments daily at 9 a.m. ET here.