This was the last season that both NBC and TBS televised NBA games.
NBA teams wore patches on their jerseys with the American flag and a red-white-and-blue ribbon, in honor of the victims of the September 11 attacks. The Raptors wore the American and Canadian flags on their jerseys.
The only Canadian team left in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors, after losing seventeen of eighteen to drop to 30–38, won twelve of their last fourteen to finish at 42–40 and go to the NBA playoffs as the seventh seed in the East.
The New Jersey Nets, who had never won fifty games in a season and had only been to the second round of the playoffs once, won 52 games to reach the Finals. With the Nets appearing in the Finals, the Denver Nuggets remain, as of 2020–21, the only former ABA team to have never reached the NBA Finals.
2001–02 is one of the most memorable seasons in the history of the Milwaukee Bucks. The team got off to a division-leading 26–13 start, and were 10 games over .500 as late as March 6. However, the Bucks lost 16 of their last 22 games and missed the playoffs, one of the biggest late-season collapses for a team that was contending for a division title in March.
For the first time since 1985–86, no team won fewer than twenty games. The Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors shared the league's worst record of 21–61. This had however previously occurred during every season between 1973–74 and 1978–79 and again from 1983–84 to 1985–86.
Former All-Star Jayson Williams was charged with the murder of his limousine driver on February 14. He was immediately fired from his spot on NBC's Verizon Wireless at the Half shortly after appearing on TV during the All-Star Game the previous week.
Marv Albert and Mike Fratello were involved in a limousine crash prior to the start of the 2002 Playoffs and were unable to announce for NBC. Albert returned to announce the 2002 Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals.
This season marked the last time the NBA playoffs used a best–of–five series in the first round. Started from next season onwards, the playoffs first-round series switched to the best–of–seven format.
Notable incidents occurred during the playoffs. During the Magic–Hornets series, Baron Davis's game-winner was waved off in time at the buzzer by referee Bernie Fryer, in the Nets–Pacers series, Reggie Miller hit the turnaround 40-foot three–pointer at the buzzer at the end of regulation was made by referee Bob Delaney, and lastly in the Kings–Lakers series, Samaki Walker hit a three–pointer at the buzzer at the end of the first half and then Robert Horry hit a game–winning three–pointer at the buzzer. Following the season, the NBA instituted new rules regarding the end-of-period indicators. An LED light strip on the backboard and the scorer's table replaced the traditional electric red light behind the backboard, and a shot clock visible to all three viewable sides was mandated.
Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals series between the Kings and the Lakers is considered to be one of the most controversial games in NBA history, as numerous questionable calls went against the Kings in the fourth quarter. The Lakers, led by O'Neal's 41 points and 17 rebounds, won, 106–102, setting the stage for Game 7 in Sacramento. There are allegations that the game was affected by the referees in relationship to the Tim Donaghy scandal.
This season marked the first time the league's scoring leader (in this case Allen Iverson) failed to make the All-NBA First Team.
Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular season record; teams enjoying the home advantage are shown in italics.
^See Berri, David J., Brook, Stacey L., Frick, Bernd, Fenn, Aju J. and Vicente-Mayoral, Roberto; 'The Short Supply of Tall People: Competitive Imbalance and the National Basketball Association'; Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Dec., 2005), pp. 1029–1041