How to Become a NBA Referee in 9 Easy Steps!

Ever wonder what it would be like to share a basketball court with the likes of Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Luka Doncic?

How about the experience of ensuring the game is played the right way?

I think one of the coolest things one can experience in life is to be on the same court with the best players in the world, whether it’s basketball, football, soccer, etc.

Guess what? This doesn’t have to be a fantasy!

You can accomplish anything you set your mind to, and if that thing is lacing up a pair of basketball referee shoes and learning how to become a NBA referee, you’re in the right place!

If you’re a basketball player looking for a way to stay involved in the game after your playing days are over, becoming a NBA referee might be the perfect option for you.

Not only will it allow you to stay close to the action, but it can also result in a fulfilling career filled with travel, excitement, and passion for the sport.

Becoming a NBA referee isn’t easy and requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Think of it as being similar to getting a basketball scholarship.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take to become a NBA referee and provide you with tips for succeeding in this challenging profession.

What is a NBA Referee?

NBA refs are the guardians of fair play, responsible for upholding the rules and maintaining order on the court.

Just like a referee in any sport, their primary duty is to make impartial and accurate decisions, even under intense pressure.

They watch over every dribble, every pass, and every shot, with the precision of a hawk scanning its territory.

They possess a keen eye and a deep understanding of the game, allowing them to spot fouls, violations, and infractions in real time.

It’s their job to keep the players safe while also keeping the game exciting and entertaining for fans.

In fact, NBA referees have an impressive 95% accuracy rate (contrary to popular belief) in making calls, making their basketball referee role all the more crucial.

Reasons You Need to Know How to Become a NBA Referee

Becoming an NBA referee opens doors to a world where your love for basketball can be transformed into a fulfilling profession.

It allows you to be a part of the game you adore, where every whistle blown and call made contributes to the excitement and integrity of the sport.

The journey to becoming an NBA referee equips you with valuable skills and knowledge. This progression builds a foundation of expertise that sets you apart as a knowledgeable and respected referee.

Being an NBA referee demands more than just a deep understanding of the game. It requires mental fortitude and the ability to remain calm under immense pressure. Just like a chef skillfully orchestrating a complex dish, you need to remain composed and make accurate calls amidst the chaos and intensity of professional basketball.

But here’s the most exciting part – becoming an NBA referee grants you the opportunity to contribute to the legacy of the game. You become a custodian of its rich history, entrusted with upholding the rules and ensuring a fair playing field.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Become a NBA Referee

Are you ready to blow the whistle and step onto the court as an NBA referee?

Becoming an NBA referee is an exciting journey that requires dedication, knowledge, and a love for the game.

Let’s dive into the step-by-step instructions to help you navigate this path.

1. Education

The first step is to earn a high school diploma or pass the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) test.

This sets the foundation for your journey towards becoming an NBA referee.

2. Learn the game

As an aspiring referee, it’s crucial to have a deep understanding of basketball rules, strategies, and gameplay so you know how to referee basketball.

Study the rulebook inside out, familiarize yourself with different fouls and violations, and watch games attentively to grasp the hand signals and nuances of officiating.

3. Physical training

Officiating at the NBA level requires physical fitness and stamina.

Engage in regular exercise routines to maintain agility, endurance, and quick reflexes necessary for making split-second decisions on the court.

Think of what players do and how to get strong fast for basketball, and you’ll be on the right track!

4. Mental training

Refereeing can be mentally demanding, especially in high-pressure situations.

Develop mental toughness, focus, and the ability to remain calm under intense scrutiny. Practice decision-making skills and enhance your ability to handle conflicts confidently.

5. Gain experience

Start by officiating at lower levels, such as high school or college games.

This hands-on experience allows you to refine your officiating skills, understand the dynamics of different levels of play, and build a solid foundation for your career.

6. Attend training programs

Seek opportunities to participate in referee training programs offered by organizations like summer league training, the NBA, the Jr. NBA, and the G League. You can even look to attend referee tryouts!

These programs provide valuable insights, guidance, and feedback from experienced officials.

7. Network and make connections

Build relationships within the basketball community in various basketball leagues or even your local school’s basketball team.

Attend referee clinics, connect with other referees, coaches, and officials, and seek mentorship opportunities. Networking can open doors to new opportunities and help you become an NBA referee.

Just like getting recruited for college basketball, knowing how to make a highlight reel and sharing that with connections is never a bad idea.

8. Become certified

It’s essential to become certified as an official referee.

Each basketball association or league may have its own certification process, so research and understand the requirements specific to the NBA. Certification is a validation of your skills and expertise as an official.

9. Keep learning and evolving

The journey to becoming an NBA referee is ongoing.

Stay updated on rule changes, attend workshops, and seek feedback to continuously improve your officiating abilities. Embrace a growth mindset and be open to learning from every game and experience.

Key Considerations for Successfully Becoming a NBA Referee

A solid foundation of basketball knowledge is essential. Understanding the rules, strategies, and gameplay intricacies is crucial for making accurate calls on the court.

Interpersonal skills play a vital role in effectively managing the dynamics between players, coaches, and fans. Referees must possess excellent communication and conflict-resolution abilities.

They need to navigate intense situations with the finesse of a diplomat, ensuring that emotions don’t overshadow their duty to make impartial decisions.

NBA games are fast-paced, demanding stamina and agility from referees. Like athletes themselves, referees need to be in top shape, ready to keep up with the world’s best players.

Taking It to the Next Level: How to Get into Professional Referee Shape

Focus on exercises that target the muscles used most frequently during games, such as the legs, core, and upper body.

Aim for two to three strength-training sessions per week, performing eight to 12 repetitions and two to three sets for each exercise.

Refereeing demands constant movement and the ability to keep up with the pace of the game. Engage in activities that boost your endurance, such as running, cycling, or interval training.

Proper nutrition plays a vital role in achieving and maintaining referee shape. Fuel your body with a balanced diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Treat your body like a high-performance engine, supplying it with the right fuel to keep going.

Alternative Methods to Become a NBA Referee

Start officiating at lower levels, such as high school or college games, and gradually work your way up.

By gaining hands-on experience and honing your skills in these settings, you can showcase your abilities and catch the attention of officials who may be scouting for potential NBA referees.

Staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the world of basketball officiating can give you an edge.

Engage in continuous learning by attending workshops, seminars, and online courses that focus on referee training and rule interpretations.


Becoming a NBA referee is a challenging but rewarding career option for basketball players.

By gaining experience officiating games, networking with NBA officials, meeting the physical requirements, passing the NBA referee exam, and continuously improving your skills, you can increase your chances of joining the league.

Remember, it’s not just about being a great basketball player – becoming a NBA referee requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for the game.

If you’re willing to put in the effort, it can be an incredibly fulfilling profession.


How much do NBA referees get paid?

When it comes to the salaries of NBA referees, earnings range from $150,000 to $550,000 per year.

The compensation varies based on experience and tenure. Entry-level referees can start with a rate of $600 per game. As they gain more experience and expertise, seasoned referees can earn up to $3,500 per game or even more.

What qualifications do you need to be an NBA ref?

The first requirement is a high school diploma or passing the GED tests, which serve as the minimum educational foundation for aspiring NBA referees.

Gaining practical experience as a basketball official in settings such as high school, college, or AAU games is invaluable.

Attending an NBA referee camp is a significant step towards achieving your goal. These camps provide opportunities to showcase your abilities, learn from seasoned officials, and receive valuable feedback.

How do you get hired as a NBA referee?

Having a high school diploma or passing the GED tests is a minimum requirement to demonstrate your educational foundation.

Officiating at various levels, such as junior leagues, National College Athletic Association (NCAA) games, or even NBA Summer Leagues or international competitions, helps you develop your abilities and gain exposure to become an NBA referee.

Networking and attending training and evaluation programs, referee camps, and clinics provide valuable opportunities to showcase your talent and catch the attention of those responsible for hiring officials.

How long does it take to become a NBA ref?

The process to become an NBA referee begins with obtaining a high school diploma or passing the GED tests, which serves as the minimum educational requirement.

From there, gaining experience as a basketball official is crucial. Officiating at different levels such as high school, college, or AAU games, allows you to develop your skills, understand the nuances of the game, and hone your craft.

Attending NBA referee camps and clinics is another important step on the journey. These events offer opportunities to showcase your abilities, learn from seasoned officials, and receive valuable feedback.

While there is no set formula for how long it takes to become an NBA referee, it typically involves years of hard work, experience, and dedication.

Embrace the journey, stay committed to your goals, and remember that every step you take brings you closer to achieving your dream of officiating on the biggest basketball stage.

How do you become a NBA G League ref?

One way to get noticed and improve your chances of becoming an NBA G League referee is to participate in tryouts and camps.

Building relationships with coaches, officials, and league administrators can open doors and lead to valuable connections.

It’s important to note that the competition is fierce, and becoming an NBA G League referee requires dedication and perseverance.

It may take time to climb the ranks and gain recognition, but with continuous improvement, commitment, and a love for the game, you can increase your chances of achieving this goal.

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