This season was notable for being one of the most competitive Western Conference playoff races in NBA history. Up until April 4, 2008, not a single Western Conference team had secured a playoff spot, and the 8th-seeded team was a mere 6.5 games behind the 1st seed. Additionally, the quality of the teams ensured that the Golden State Warriors finished with the highest winning percentage of any non-playoff team in NBA history since the switch to the eight-team playoff format, beating out the 2000–01 Houston Rockets. This was later tied by the 2013–14 Phoenix Suns. The all-time record is held by the 1971–72 Phoenix Suns (49–33), which was during the four-team playoff era.
On December 23, 2007, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player to score 20,000 points at age 29 years, 122 days old, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain's previous record of 29 years, 134 days old.
On December 24, 2007, the Chicago Bulls fired head coach Scott Skiles after a 9–16 start. Jim Boylan was named the interim head coach for the remaining games in the season three days later.
On January 11, 2008, NBA commissioner David Stern granted the Miami Heat a 51.9-second replay on their overtime game on December 19, 2007 versus the Atlanta Hawks because the official scorer ruled incorrectly that Shaquille O'Neal was fouled out, when he was on his fifth foul. The Hawks were fined $50,000 for their "gross negligence". The replay was held on March 8, 2008, before the teams' next meeting. This was the first replay since December 1982 when then-NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien granted a replay on a double overtime game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. This replay was continued despite O'Neal having been traded to the Phoenix Suns. The Hawks went on to win the replay.
February 2008 was marked by several major trades by some the league's top teams. Some of the more notable trades include:
The Boston Celtics broke the record for the best single-season turnaround in NBA history by improving from 24 wins in 2006–07 to 66 wins this season, a total of 42 games. The previous record of 36 games was held by the 1997–98 San Antonio Spurs, who improved from 20 to 56 wins.
On April 28, 2008, Pat Riley announced that he would step down as the Miami Heat head coach after leading the team to a 15-67 record. Former Heat assistant coach Erik Spoelstra was announced as his replacement. Riley remained as team president.
The 2008 NBA Finals featured No. 1 seeds from both conferences for the first time since 2000. The Boston Celtics, who earned their first finals appearance since 1987, faced the Los Angeles Lakers, reviving a classic rivalry not seen since the Lakers beat the Celtics 4-2 in 1987. This time the Celtics prevailed 4–2 over the Lakers.
Flip Saunders was dismissed as Detroit Pistons head coach, four days after the Celtics beat the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pistons game 4 win over the Celtics marked the last and most recent playoff win as of 2021 for the Motor City as they began to rebuild for the next several years led to longtime Pistons' guard Chauncey Billups was traded to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson after the first few games in the 2008–09 season and sign and traded away several players marked the end of the Pistons era in the mid–2000s.
On June 17, 2008, after a rough 26-game journey, the Boston Celtics won their record 17th NBA Championship with a six-game NBA Finals triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Beginning with this season, all NBA broadcasts on ESPN, ABC and TNT include interviews with the head coaches by the courtside reporter prior to the second and fourth quarter of games. The visiting team's coach is interviewed before the second, the host team's coach is interviewed before the fourth quarter.
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.