As far as the best paid sports officials go, basketball is one of the best. It ranks in about 8th position just below baseball and just above football. For whatever reason, it seems that there are more penalties called in a game than other sports. This makes for an interesting game because not only do you have to watch what’s happening on the court, but you also have to keep an eye on the referees who are always making calls against one of the teams. Some people like it some don’t. They may not like it but they pay for it because officials make quite a bit of money for basketball games.


The National Basketball Officials Association (NBOOA) is the body that represents referees in the NBA. They are responsible for negotiating the pay scale of the officials. Typical salaries start at around $100,000 a year and can go up to over six figures. For example, retired referee Steve Javie made over $700,000 in 2008-2009 season (more than any player I might add).

As of 2009, officials make an average of $150,000 a season. Assistant referees make about $120,000 and the third official makes about $90,000 (according to referees association executive director Ronnie Nunn). That is just for one season. If they put those years together it gets pretty substantial. The NBOOA negotiates a 2 year contract that is then renewed for as long as the referees are considered qualified. Therefore, if you continually make bad calls, your pay could be docked each time even if it’s part of a multi-year agreement.

Since there are only about 60-80 full time referees in a given season and there are usually 20-30 games in a good season, that means there are around 80 referees working. This small number is one of the reasons why they have so much more power than players. If you think about it, there are only 12 teams so if someone on one of the teams doesn’t get along with the referee for some reason or another it affects their livelihood because they can’t play. Imagine how many games you would miss if you were an NFL quarterback and there was one referee who didn’t like your style of play (or face or something). You might not get to play in most of your games for the season!

This is why referees are very powerful in the NBA. They make a lot of money, are very organized for the most part, and there are not a whole lot of them. They have to be in good shape too because it’s actually pretty difficult to keep up with all that is going on during a game. You’ve got two teams running back and forth in front of you at different ends of the court, players constantly shifting positions on defense, and a ball going from one end to the other quickly. It’s a lot of information to process especially when you add in the fact that they also have had to watch for fouls on both teams as well as understand some very complex rules. Not only that but they have to put all this into time limits that are much shorter than NFL games. It’s pretty incredible to watch the game when you know all this is going on in their minds.

As far as salary goes, it looks like referees get paid about $500 per game but that number varies depending on time of the year and other factors. Since there are only four officials in any given game there

In many areas of the United States, basketball officials are paid from a percentage of the gate receipts. In some high school conferences, being an official can have its fringe benefits as well. Some conferences pay for college tuition for their officials who maintain a good academic standing and officiate a certain number of games during each season.

About The Author