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How Are Referees Chosen For The NBA Finals?

Officiating in any sport is always heavily criticized. Especially when it tends to go against one’s own personal favorite team. As such, this makes the announcement of referees for big NBA games much more interesting. For the NBA Finals, fans anxiously await what batch of refs are going to be blowing the whistle.

How Are Referees Chosen For The NBA Finals? This might sound surprising, but the league hand picks the referees who do the greatest job throughout the regular season. The NBA President of League Operations, Byron Spruell, said this, “Just as the goal of our players is to reach the postseason finale, the same is true of our officials. We appreciate this group’s outstanding work during the playoffs and congratulate them on being selected to officiate in the NBA Finals.” Again, this is coming from the man who oversees a ridiculous amount of NBA related operations. So, if you don’t like the referees that are being chosen for each game, higher up league officials deserve your criticism.

There are still more questions to cover when it comes to officiating the NBA Finals. Pay, difficulty, and the selection process are all important variables in the officiating of NBA games.

How Much Are These Refs Paid In The NBA Finals?

Before we are able to fully put this into perspective, we have to cover the normal referee salary. Now, it is currently listed that NBA officials make anywhere from $180,000 to $500,000. These salaries depend on a number of variables including experience and sometimes even job title and performance. If an official is able to get nominated to referee the NBA Finals, their per game salary jumps dramatically. Compared to the couple thousand dollars that these guys make in each regular season game that they officiate, they jump up to somewhere in the area of $30,000 per NBA Finals game. You read that correctly. These officials are making a boatload of money officiating the biggest series in the league each season. When you take that into account, it really shows how much some of these guys are making. For example, Scott Foster has become one of the most known referees in the league today for both good and bad reasons. Foster has officiated 15 NBA Finals series, which in turn has resulted in 22 total games. That may not make a lot of sense on the surface, but these refs don’t do every single game in a series. Sometimes they go back and forth. It all just depends on the circumstance. However, the bottom line is that a guy like Foster is making an unbelievable amount of money per NBA Finals game that he officiates.

Is Officiating Easy?

By no means is officiating an NBA game easy. It gets ten times harder when it turns into an NBA Finals game. Just like how these players get a ton of nerves when they step out onto the court in this atmosphere, so do the referees because of how important each decision of theirs is to determine the winner of the game. You definitely don’t want to be the guy who makes a really bad call in the moment and have fans cling onto that mistake for years to come. Outside of the nerves though, officiating has so many different aspects to it. The first is that they all have to be physically fit. Maybe not so much as the players on the court, but they are constantly running back and forth along the court just as much to watch every little thing unfold. Throughout all of that running, they have to be able to remember the rules and regulations in order to catch somebody doing something they aren’t supposed too. In the heat of the moment with the crowd roaring, it gets much harder to remember what’s going on and to really see any foul in the moment. That leads to these big-time reviews that normally take a little longer than we would like. However, sometimes things are missed. That’s the life of an NBA referee. Without these guys standing on the sidelines, cheating and physicality would be a whole lot more prominent in the league today. There are people who might enjoy that type of game, but that isn’t the way it has been played in the NBA for a long time. 

Why Does The League Select Referees Based On Performance?

To some, it might be weird to find out that the league chooses what officials get to perform in each round of the postseason based on their recent performance. However, this system is actually a pretty good one. Obviously, all of these guys want to keep on refereeing games to make more money for their families, but if they continuously mess up for teams, they won’t be out there calling games anymore. This is a great incentive to keep these guys on top of their own game and still get held responsible when things go wrong. The NBA vice president/head of referee development had this to say a few years ago regarding referee selection in the NBA Finals, “We really want this system to be a meritocracy. People who are putting in the work, putting in the performance are the ones that should serve the game at the highest level at this time of the year.” He later went on to mention that the referee operating staff holds ratings for each referee throughout the regular season to see how they are doing. There is also constant feedback from the two sides to ensure that everything can go as smoothly as possible. So, the next time you see people complaining about a specific referee getting placed onto a big game, take at least some type of comfort in knowing the rigorous vetting process that undergoes each playoff series, especially the finals. I would think it’s safe to say that these league officials know what they are doing in this department.