How To Become An NBA Referee

If you are passionate about basketball games, then you might want to become a referee shortly after your retirement as a professional player to get involved with the game. Referees get paid for their professional service. But the amount of payment depends on the level of the services a referee provides. The process of becoming a referee is not that difficult since, as a basketball player, you know the rules of the game, and you might love this profession too as you will get involved with the game and get paid for your services as well. There are some procedures that you need to go through and complete to become a referee. And after finishing all the processes, you can start your career as a referee, and if you can perform well in this arena, then you can be an NBA referee someday. Let’s dive into the processes!

Know the rules of the game

The initial step of becoming a referee is to know the rules well. Probably you have played basketball before in your school or college life or even as a professional player. But rules changes over time. You need to get updated with the new rules. As a professional referee, you need to make the right call instantly without having any doubt in your mind in a game. The more you know the rules, the more you will enrich your knowledge. To understand the rules of the game, you can follow below instructions

  • Purchase a book or video to learn the basic rules. People from many countries have been playing basketball. Some states have specific rule books for the referees, while others mostly follow NCAA or NBA rules.
  • Once you know the rules, then try to practice hand signals or gestures by yourself for a practical understanding of how to execute a game.
  • Besides a lot of hand practice, you must also need to enforce the rules while watching NBA matches on TV or as an audience in any basketball game.

Attend training

You can be a basketball referee with or without having any training. But for better understanding, the rule and executing a game better have some official training. Referees have a different perspective on sports than the players, so by having professional training, you can better know the rules. Some courses will provide you certificates, and this will add as a qualification for you.

Obtain certificates

It is essential to have professional certification for becoming a referee. You will get certificates from the respective authority depending on the training courses you choose. Applying for accreditation is easy; you need to fill up an online application form in most cases. Some points to remember –

  • In some areas or countries, the respective authority offers different levels of certification program based on previous experiences.
  • You will have to pass the background tests to obtain a certificate.
  • After the certification, you can expect to attend the meeting with the officials to discuss the game and elements of presiding.
  • You need to pay a certain amount of money for your certificate. The payment will vary depending on the different regions.

Gather experiences

When you have a certificate and have a solid understanding of the rules of the game, then you start your journey by taking charge of the children’s game as a volunteer. Many start from the middle-grade level of the school like – grade 6th, 7th, or 8th. This will help you gain practical experiences and improve your understanding of rules as a referee. As younger players game moves at a slower pace, so you will get time to learn the process of officiating.

Usually, a single referee and two umpires conduct the basketball game. To gain more experience and until you become established, you can act as one of the umpires. From this position, you can learn a lot from your lead referee about executing the game. When you work as an umpire, you can observe how your lead referee conducts the match, and you can learn the process as well. You can ask your questions to the lead referee to know more about officiating; thus, it will help you improve overall confidence and performance.

Being a basketball referee is a continuous learning process because of a thorough understanding of rules and regulations needed for performing well in big games. You need to keep in mind that rules and regulations have been changing continuously. So you need to improve your further skills as per the changing rules. You need to attend more professional training to enhance your level further even after conducting a few matches. You can attend officials training programs in your local area, or you can seek for the private training program. The more you participate in versatile training programs, the more you can enrich your level of knowledge, and you will get more chances to serve as a referee in big games.

Do registration for NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) exam and be prepared

After gathering a good amount of experiences at the high school level, you must want to be a referee in college-level basketball. You can register on the NCAA website and schedule our exam over there, which is a must to be an NCAA referee.

Before serving as a referee in NCAA, you need to attend an officiating clinic that focused on essential elements of becoming a referee in college basketball games. Then as per your schedule date, you need to take the official exam. You can get the time and date on the website. You need to pass the exam to become an official NCAA referee.

Apply to referee in NBA and WNBA

Once you gather a good amount of experience serving as a college basketball referee, then you can apply for the NBA, and this would be the right path for you. You can apply for the official referee of the NBA on the NBA’s official website ( Before applying, make sure that you have extensive experiences refereeing to college basketball games. Although it is not a requirement but better if you have it, initially, you can start by refereeing in WNBA games or camps. Then you can gradually improve yourself for high profile games.

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