How to become an NBA referee?

If you are anything like me and watch basketball often, you probably think you know the game well. Perhaps you have even been able to predict many of the plays even before they occurred.

In addition, this may also include the calls made by a referee, which includes sneering at a ref who misses or gets it wrong entirely. Feeling as though you would be able to officiate better than them probably makes you wonder how they became refs.

All of your decisions will be made in your comfy chair, but there will be no players, coaches, or fans bothering you or judging your opinion regarding the play. You’ve got the best seat in the house, so you’ve been running for less than two hours. You don’t have to worry about making a critical call right before the game is over either.

Although this may come as a shock, professional referees have a very difficult job. Although they may seem untrained at times, they have extensive experience and training to be on the court calling the game. The National Basketball Association has put together a list of requirements for Referees.

Do You Want to Referee for the NBA?

In order to become a professional referee, you probably should do some research first. A professional basketball ref is a worthwhile goal, but it requires hard work and lots of time. In other words, before taking on that job, make sure it’s a career you really want to pursue.


Those who love basketball but are unable to play at higher levels may still be able to stay involved with the sport and gain an opportunity to play professionally. It is not easy for everyone to become an NBA player, but anyone who is willing to work hard can become a referee.

You’ll have an up-close and personal view of the game you love. No one gets close to the action like the referee, not even the coaches. Also, you will have the chance to meet some of the best talents in the industry.

It is the only way for you to earn their respect and support on the court. Not only do you get paid, but you benefit from all the advantages that come with it.

With basketball being such a fast-paced sport, you have to be in maximum condition to keep pace with players. You also have to show pinpoint judgment and call accuracy. Being seated at a desk for lengthy periods of time in other jobs has its disadvantages.

Pay-wise, you will make a good living. Referees in professional leagues earn anywhere from $150,000 to $550,000 a year, depending upon their skill and experience.


Being a referee can be stressful at times and you need to make decisions up to a split-second in time that can affect a game or an entire season. Every night players, coaches, and fans will criticize your performance. You’ll have to be tough and tough-minded for the criticism and harassment.

There will be a lot of traveling, and you’ll be away from family and friends for most of the NBA season.

No whistle or proper referee’s uniform is required, but you will be provided with them. There are other requirements.

A Referee’s Guide to Becoming a NBA Referee

A career as a professional referee can take many paths, depending on the individual, but most have certain steps you can take to get there. Here is a quick guide to obtaining an official’s license in the National Basketball Association.

1. You need to be educated

First and foremost in any career, I recommend obtaining a basic education. No matter if it’s a trade school, a college, or an educational setup. You can’t disregard an education, and neither will job hunters. Graduating from college is always a benefit when it comes to finding a job.

2. You Should Learn the game

Get as much information about basketball as you can. Not only do you need to know the rules of the game, but you want to go above and beyond that. You can only gain respect from NBA circles if you can speak to them and understand all aspects of basketball.

3. Physical training

As with the players, you need to be in great physical shape to play for 48 minutes. You won’t have a sub to make up for your tiredness as the players do.

4. Mental training

Do not overlook the mental preparation required for this job. Train your brain to make quick and accurate observations. You must also be able to remain calm in times of extreme stress and criticism. Learn how to cope with stressful situations by using coping mechanisms like meditation or relaxation techniques that work for you.

5. Learn and practice the calls

From books, YouTube videos, or observing games, you can learn the calls and hand signals you need to get through the game. Learn these skills so you’ll be able to confidently participate when your turn comes. To improve your skills, try acting like a referee during games and making calls in real-time.

Taking a class or training session could also help you learn the basics and help you launch your career.

6. And Get Started

It is a good idea to start with youth leagues. Gradually work your way up to more competitive leagues. Consider making as many connections as you can, because networking is beneficial throughout high school and college.

No matter what level of play you are at, always strive to perform at your best. There are scouts searching for players and referees alike. Learn how to perform at a lower level by playing lower-level leagues and gaining experience.

7. Get certified

As you learn and progress in your career, seek certifications in whatever you can. A resume enhanced by these skills will show, you have the necessary skills. Some jobs with professional basketball leagues may require them to first apply for jobs.

8. Register on the NBA Official website

When you’re ready, you can register at the official website of the NBA. From here, you can find out how to break into the league and where you can attend camps and other workplace training programs.

Additionally, they need to share with the players’ information on where and how they’ll be scouting, orientations, application procedures, and how to enter the G League and NBA Summer Leagues.

9. Always learn Something New  

Even if you think you know everything about a game, there is always something else to learn because the rules and the game change constantly, so you have to keep in touch with the game and keep learning.


It’s not as hard as it sounds to make it as a referee in the big leagues. We’ve outlined a pretty clear route to success above. We have talked about the qualities necessary to become a professional basketball official, which includes the characteristics.

Christina Mullenax

Christina is an American-Russian professional basketball coach and former player who is the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces of the Women’s National Basketball Association. She currently also serves as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association.


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