Basketball Referee Roles

Basketball Referees and Officials

Referees are pivotal in the game of basketball. A bad referee can negatively affect the outcome of a game, while a good referee can make sure the winner is decided fairly. Read on to learn all about a referee’s basic roles and responsibilities during a basketball game.

Number of Referees in Basketball Games

The officials and referees are responsible for interpreting the rulebook and calling fouls and violations during basketball games. There are also referees that oversee statistics, scorekeeping, the game clock and shot clock, replays, and when a player steps out of bounds.

In the NBA, there are seven officials: one crew chief, two referees, one official scorekeeper, two trained timekeepers, and one replay center official. For lower levels of basketball, the number of referees for each game can vary.

Referee Roles and Responsibilities

Referees have lots of responsibilities in a basketball game. These are some of the basic roles and responsibilities shared by on-court officials.

  • Check all game equipment (i.e., hoop, ball, backboard, floor)
  • Ensure the pressure of the ball is between 7.5 pounds and 8.5 pounds
  • Check players’ uniforms and remove illegal equipment
  • Check team roster size and the active list
  • Toss the ball in jump balls
  • Assign possession of the ball on in-bounds passes
  • Give the ball to free throw shooters and inbounders
  • Call all fouls and violations
  • Signal a dead ball by blowing their whistle

List of Basketball Officials

In basketball, there are five different types of officials. Each type of official has specialized roles and responsibilities. The five types of officials are listed below:

  • Crew Chief
  • Referee
  • Scorekeeper
  • Timekeeper
  • Replay Center Official

Basketball Crew Chief

Basketball Crew Chief

The crew chief is the head official in any group of basketball referees. They always have the final say on a ruling if there is a disagreement between the referees. A crew chief is also responsible for discussing calls with both teams’ head coaches if there is any confusion about a ruling. The crew chief is the most important job in the officiating crew and can have a huge impact on a game.

Basketball Referee

Referees are responsible for calling fouls and violations, whistling dead balls, and giving the ball to free-throw shooters and inbounders. These are very similar to the responsibilities of a crew chief. The only difference between the crew chief and regular referees is that the crew chief has the final say on a disputed call.

Basketball Scorekeeper

The scorekeeper in basketball is responsible for tracking the scores of both teams, updating the scoreboard, and confirming all scored baskets. They need to pay very close attention to the game to record the correct score, which players have scored, and confirm other statistics with the referees, such as fouls or timeouts. The scorekeeper will sit behind the scorer’s table, which is located on the sideline near center court.

Basketball Timekeeper

The timekeeper in basketball is in charge of starting and stopping the clocks during gameplay. This includes both the game clock and the shot clock, which makes the job harder than it may seem. The timekeeper also stays in constant contact with the on-court referees and will change the time on the clock if the crew chief deems it necessary.

Basketball Replay Center Official

Basketball Replay Review

The replay center official is perhaps the most unique member of the officiating crew because they are not actually located in the arena. The NBA’s replay center is located in Secaucus, New Jersey, and this is where all NBA referee calls are reviewed in real-time. In the replay center, officials can monitor multiple different angles of on-court fouls or violations to ensure they make the right call.

When a referee is unsure about a call on the floor, they will go over to the scorer’s table and call the NBA replay center to communicate with the replay center official. The replay center official will quickly review footage of the controversial call and communicate the correct decision to the referee or crew chief.

Basketball Fouls

Basketball Fouls and Violations

A foul is a penalty given to a player and team for committing an illegal action toward another player. There are many fouls in basketball, including flagrant fouls, personal fouls, technical fouls, and team fouls. Depending on the situation, fouls can result in the opposing team being awarded free throws. Referees are responsible for calling fouls when they happen on the court.

Basketball Violations

A violation is a type of penalty called for violating basic rules of the game, like dribbling illegally or timing mistakes. Violations are viewed as less severe than fouls and do not result in free throws. Referees are responsible for calling violations when they happen on the court.

Basketball Referee Signals

Basketball Referee Hand Signals

A referee will blow their whistle and make a signal with their arms when a foul or violation is called. They also use hand signals to communicate made shots, changes of possession, or to start the clock. There are lots of referee signals in basketball, which are necessary for referees to communicate with other referees, coaches, and players in an effective manner. When referees huddle up to discuss a call, it slows down the game and can ruin a game’s flow and rhythm.


How many referees are there in basketball?

In the NBA, there are three referees on the court at all times: the crew chief and two assistant referees. The crew chief is the leader of the two assistant referees, also known as the umpires. There are also three other officials present at every game: the scorekeeper, the timekeeper, and the replay center official.

What are the types of officials in basketball?

The five types of officials in basketball are the crew chief, referees, scorekeepers, timekeepers, and replay center officials. The crew chief and referees serve as the on-court officials who monitor gameplay and make rulings. The scorekeeper keeps track of the official score, while the timekeeper is in charge of the game clock and shot clock. The replay center official aids the crew chief when there is a disputed call that needs to be confirmed by instant replay.

What does a referee do?

The main responsibility of a referee is to call fouls and violations, whistle dead balls, and give the ball to inbounders and free-throw shooters. Referees are sometimes called umpires, and the crew chief is a head referee who has the final say if there is a disputed call. Referees and crew chiefs have different responsibilities than scorekeepers, timekeepers, and replay center officials.