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TNT montage imagines the future, depicts LeBron James in the Dunk Contest

http://youtu.be/00EiKvqIcTI

The opening week of every NBA season is all about anticipation and forecasting, a web of crystal balls, magician hats, "bold predictions," and computer simulation models.  TNT captured this annual rite in a season preview video that aired Tuesday, but they added an extra twist by taking a time machine years into the future.

What did they see when they got there? And what did they bring to life, with the help of audio and visual graphic effects? All sorts of fun stuff: the young Thunder stars capturing their first championship; Rockets guard James Harden winning the MVP award; Nets forward Paul Pierce making his return to Boston; legendary coach Phil Jackson coming out of retirement to take over the Knicks; Bulls guard Derrick Rose scoring 70 points to break Michael Jordan's franchise scoring record; Kobe Bryant holding a press conference to announce his retirement; and -- most mindbogglingly of all -- LeBron James participating in the Slam Dunk Contest.

(TNT) LeBron James participates in an imaginary Slam Dunk Contest. (TNT)

The ending flourish shows 2014 title banners being raised by the Heat, Clippers, Warriors and Thunder, setting the stage for this year's championship chase.

"The thought of what's to come makes true believers delirious with anticipation," the video's narrator concludes. "Because every entry on every page in every book of basketball lore started out as a simple wish, teasing us with its glow, daring us to make it real."

RELATED: Heat's LeBron James participates in Dunk Contest for Nike ad

Taken together, this is a stunning presentation. The hypothetical images are juxtaposed with actual footage, the longshots (Rose's career-high is 42 points and Jackson has repeatedly said he's done coaching) appear alongside more legit possibilities (Durant hosting the Larry O'Brien trophy, Harden taking home the MVP), and imminent happenings (Pierce's return to Boston, which will come in January) are placed next to  events that likely won't take place for years (Bryant's retirement).

TNT succeeds in capturing the hopeful promise of the future while casting aside the boundaries of the past and present, and the result is an extended daydream that perfectly sets the table for a reality that is -- after months of offseason foot-tapping -- finally upon us.

As an added bonus, the video makes the most compelling (and most shrewd) case yet that James, conqueror of the NBA universe, should take center stage at All-Star Weekend. Forget Magic Johnson's $1 million offer/guilt trip. James can't help but feel a pang of obligation when the words "unfinished business" are uttered as he rocks the cradle in the video's imaginary Dunk Contest, right? Even a player with four MVP awards and two rings should get excited when a row of perfect tens from the judges is staring him so directly in the face, right?

target="_blank">Video via YouTube user beyondthebuzzercom | Hat tip: @JonesOnTheNBA

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