How to become an NBA Referee


How to become an NBA Referee

NBA Referee School is a training program for prospective referees in the NBA.

The NBA Referee School is a training program for prospective referees in the NBA. The program is open to both men and women, and participants typically range in age from their late 20s to 50. The school, which is located in New Jersey, aims to prepare officials for calling games at the highest level of professional basketball.

During the two week intensive training session, about 100 officials are trained by veteran NBA referees. The classroom portion of this training involves learning rules and making calls on video clips from actual games; during the on-court sessions, students learn correct positioning for guarding against traveling and offensive fouls.

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How to become an NBA Referee

Work for a league overseas

After years and years of unofficial experience, you’re ready to begin your official journey to become an NBA referee.

Where do you begin? The best way to get started is to take any job refereeing basketball games that you can find. This includes officiating summer leagues, youth leagues or even high school or college games. If you have some money saved up, consider moving overseas for a season – the NBA has partnerships with leagues in Europe, Asia and Australia (notably NBL) where there are plenty of opportunities for aspiring referees. There’s no better way to build your officiating skills than working a game every night!

Go to referee school

Education Requirements for NBA Referees

Most NBA referees have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution. There is no specific degree required, though a course of study in law, business or physical education may be helpful for aspiring referees. Referees should be competent communicators and good listeners as well as physically fit.

Qualifications for Becoming a Professional Basketball Referee

The first step to becoming an NBA referee is to determine if you meet the basic requirements for the job, which include:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be in good physical condition
  • Have good vision (must be able to pass a vision test)
  • Have a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Be available to work nights, weekends and holidays


Work D-League games

  • Attend an open tryout.
  • Get invited to a training camp.
  • Try out for the NBA Development League.

The NBDL is the National Basketball Association’s official minor league. It also serves as a testing ground for new rules, new talent and new officials. Many of the top professional referees get their start in the D-League, including current NBA referees Rodney Mott (NBA since 1998), Haywoode Workman (2000), and Matt Boland (2009).

Work the Playoffs

> At some point during your career, you will officiate in the playoffs. This is where the payouts can get BIG. If you work all rounds of the playoffs you are set for life. In one four year period I worked more than 300 games and many of them were playoff contests. I got paid $9000 per game. Work the entire two month NBA Finals series and it is a $100,000 payday on top of your regular salary. Most guys when they first start out don’t even know there are playoff games to be worked until they are asked if they want to work them!

  • Conference Finals – Each round in the playoffs pays out more than the previous round until you reach what is called “The Finals”!! The conference finals generally pay around 1/3 more than a regular season game
  • Conference Semi-Finals – These games pay a little bit less than a finals game but are still about 50% more than a regular season game
  • Conference Quarter-Finals – These games pay about 1/3 more than a regular season game
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It takes years and years of hard work, but it is possible.

How do you become an NBA referee? You could be the best official in your local gym, but that won’t cut it at the professional level. To become an NBA referee, you must have some real basketball experience. The NBA will not hire officials without a lot of experience in officiating, even if they have played basketball their whole life. Even if you make it to the NBA, there are a few hoops you must jump through before being allowed to call games for the best basketball players in the world.

  • The first step is to get a job as a referee with high school or college basketball teams. This is not easy, as there are already many qualified referees seeking work at this level. It can take years to build up a strong resume and good references from coaches and athletic directors before moving on to bigger jobs like that of an NCAA Division I official or even working summer league games for professional franchises like the Chicago Bulls or New York Knicks.

If you’re able to move up into officiating at college games or even summer league games for professional teams then congratulations! You’ve proven yourself worthy enough so far with your hard work and dedication…but the hardest part is still ahead of you!

What does an NBA referee do?

NBA referees have a different job each night, but they share some common qualities. The referee, who is responsible for keeping a handle on the flow of the game, coordinates communication between players and coaches. They also provide instant replay reviews during television broadcasts, which allows viewers to see how officials made their decisions.

Duties of an NBA Referee

As an NBA referee, you’ll be expected to make quick and accurate calls on everything that happens on the court. You’ll need to be able to see the whole court at once and understand where players are in relation to each other. You’ll need to react quickly and decisively when a call needs to be made. You’ll also need excellent communication skills so that you can convey your decisions effectively, as well as understand what coaches and players are saying. And you should have a good sense of humor—both on the court, where some comical situations can arise, and off the court, with all your other referee friends.

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Pros of becoming an NBA Referee

You get to watch the best basketball players in the world.

As an NBA referee, you get to see the best basketball players in the world live. You get to see a lot of people’s favorite teams, and view these games from a different perspective than other fans.

You have to be able to stay on top of the action, as a referee, so this gives you a unique view of the action and all that it entails.

You work less than half the year

Now here’s some good news for those of you who can’t stand the thought of spending an entire year refereeing basketball. The NBA regular season runs from October to June, with a midseason break in February. Each team plays 82 games, which means that each team needs a total of 326 referees over the course of the season. However, this does not mean that each referee works all 82 games. In fact, NBA referees only work about 10 months per year and are paid for 12. That’s right—you’re getting paid for two months off!

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So what happens when you’re not working? You get plenty of time off to spend with your family or friends doing all kinds of cool things! This includes summer vacation in July and August (which is technically during basketball season but whatever), as well as a three-week break in December and January between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Your schedule is flexible and you don’t have to work every day.

Flexibility is a huge perk of being an NBA referee. Because games are played throughout the week, you can participate in the NBA’s schedule however much you want to. If you want to make it a full-time job, that’s your choice—you can make up to $350,000 per year if you’re in the top tier! But if you want to work as an accountant during the day and as a referee on nights and weekends, that’s fine too!

While referees are required to attend training camps and meetings throughout the season, for the most part, their schedule is flexible. You don’t have to work every day; your time off can be used for vacation or personal business. For example, when I was younger and teaching high school math & science classes during my “off” seasons (e.g., summertime), I took weeks off at a time so I could teach summer school classes!

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Your job adds variety to your life.

  • Your job adds variety to your life. If you love getting out and about, consider becoming an NBA referee. You’ll be able to attend events, meet interesting people and explore different parts of the world.
  • You can do what you love. Becoming an NBA referee allows you to do something that you’re passionate about every day of the week. If basketball is more than just a sport, it could be time to try your hand at being a ref.
  • Job security is good in this industry. The action never stops when it comes to basketball! If you have a passion for the game and always wanted to be part of it, becoming an NBA ref is one way to go about doing it!
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It’s a coveted job — you’ll be one of 60 in the position.

Becoming an NBA referee is a highly coveted position. There are only 60 spots open in the league, and they’re fiercely competitive in terms of education, work experience, and training. It’s been reported that there are more astronauts than NBA referees! But don’t let that discourage you; it’s not impossible to break into the league.

The first step to becoming a professional basketball referee is becoming a high school referee. From there, you can steadily make your way up through college-level leagues, then on to the G-League (the NBA equivalent of minor league teams). You may have heard about the G-League from Commissioner Adam Silver’s recent announcement that all players under 18 will be required to enter this program before being drafted for the NBA. The G-League was established in 2001 as an alternative option for players who wish to further their careers but aren’t ready for or interested in attending college–it’s like a farm team for the pros.

It’s important to note that if you want to become an NBA referee, you do so with an understanding that it’s not full time; most refs have day jobs or other professions outside of their time spent officiating games at night and on weekends. However, it seems like every year there are more full-time referees hired by the league as they’re needed to fill out existing teams of three officials per game–and again, should one retire or need replacing because of injury or performance issues, more full-time positions will be created and offered by those left over within the top pool of candidates: ie., YOU!

You’ll be part of an elite team.

One of the advantages of becoming an NBA referee is that you’ll be surrounded by some of the best people in sports officiating. There are a limited number of positions available, so only the most elite referees will have a shot to work games in the NBA. You’ll quickly learn from these experienced officials, and they will help you become better at your chosen career. And all this while participating on a team that is respected and known around the world

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