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The Warriors are lucky to have such a stacked team. So is LeBron James

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Good fortune is inextricable from success in the NBA. BOTH teams in the 2017 NBA Finals prove that.

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors had several breaks in putting this remarkable collection of talent together. You know them well. Stephen Curry signed a discount extension after an injury-riddled 2012 season. Draymond Green took less than the max as a restricted free agent. An unprecedented spike in the salary cap aligned perfectly with the free agency of Kevin Durant, coming one year before Curry became an expensive free agent himself.

If any one of those events happens slightly differently, we aren’t staring down this juggernaut, just a slightly less potent but still awesome Warriors team.

It’s all completely valid. The Warriors are not cheating their way to a championship. Kevin Durant is not cheating his way to a championship. There are no asterisks in competitive sports. The Warriors’ 2017 championship banner — presuming they finish the job, as they are overwhelmingly favored to do — will not be inherently worth less than the 2015 edition or the dusty 1975 vintage.

Those mad at Durant for whatever reason have cited unwritten rules about masculinity and seem to struggle understanding the free in free agency. Free agency means doing whatever you want within the actual contract rules of the league. If you want to join The Avengers of basketball, you can. And sure, everyone is entitled to criticize that decision. If they looked within themselves, they might question their own reaction.

But that’s all irrelevant. Whether Durant pleases everyone is irrelevant. Whether some set of fans denies Durant’s greatness on account of his decision is irrelevant. In the end, there is only a ring, and Kevin Durant will be wearing it if the Warriors finish the job.

The idea that the Warriors rely on luck and fortune, though, is interesting. Golden State certainly caught a break with Curry’s contract, yet we should credit the Warriors’ front office for getting that deal done. It was a risk to Golden State at the time, as well: With a little bad fortune, Curry’s ankle issues could have been a chronic injury and limited his reliability.

The Warriors deserve credit too for maximizing cap space before Curry’s contract came due. Had the salary cap spike been smoothed over several years as league officials desired — the players’ union fought it — the Warriors wouldn’t have had the space to sign Durant to a maximum deal in 2016. But they would have been in a great position to upgrade the roster with a lesser star. Based on the fact that they won 73 games without Durant and were within a legendary LeBron James performance (and a Draymond Green suspension) from going back-to-back as champions, evidence suggests they’d be up 2-0 in the Finals right now even without Durant.

But here we are talking about the Warriors’ luck and the inherent unfairness of Golden State’s current roster while ignoring how the Cavaliers got here.

The Cavaliers won three NBA draft lotteries in four years once LeBron left Cleveland in 2010. That’s unprecedented. Most of that is sheer luck.

One piece of it can be attributed to skill. The Cavaliers traded for the Clippers’ unprotected 2011 first-round pick in a relatively minor salary cap dump involving Baron Davis. That pick became Kyrie Irving. If L.A. hadn’t foolishly made that deal, Cleveland would have come away from the 2011 NBA draft with just Tristan Thompson, not Thompson and an All-Star point guard.

Cleveland completely blew one of its No. 1 overall picks (Anthony Bennett in 2013) and didn’t pick for value at No. 4 in 2012 (Dion Waiters). The Cavaliers made the obvious, consensus pick in 2014 (Andrew Wiggins), just weeks before LeBron decided to return to the Cavaliers.

Some have distinguished LeBron’s 2014 free agent decision from Durant’s 2016 choice focusing on how awful Cleveland had been compared to how awesome the Warriors were. But LeBron wasn’t joining the 33-49 Cavaliers of the 2013-14 season. He was joining a new Cavaliers superteam.

Irving had already been named to two All-Star Games in his three years in the league. LeBron pushed the Cavaliers to trade Wiggins for Kevin Love, then a 25-year-old three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA honoree. Cleveland would not have been able — or willing — to trade Wiggins for Love without LeBron’s presence, because Love was on track to be a free agent in 2015, and no team in Cleveland’s pre-LeBron state can afford trading assets for rentals without guarantee of a contract extension.

LeBron didn’t really join a bad team and instantly make it better in 2014. He and the Cavaliers’ front office created a new superteam centered around LeBron, largely relying on the good fortune of winning the picks that resulted in Kyrie and Wiggins.

Unfair? How are the Warriors unfair for adding a top free agent to a core built around a No. 7 pick, a No. 11 pick, and a No. 35 pick if the Cavaliers are not unfair for winning three lotteries in four years, flipping two of those picks for a 25-year-old perennial All-Star to add to their 22-year-old two-time All-Star ... and then signing a four-time MVP in his prime who had the good fortune of being raised in northeast Ohio and having previously been drafted No. 1 by that same franchise?

The Warriors relied on some fortune to get here. So did the Cavaliers. So does every single successful team in the NBA. Leveraging luck into success doesn’t cheapen anything.

Again: There are no asterisks in pro sports. They exist only in the minds of those who invent their own rules based on their own proclivities. If you don’t like how easy this is for Golden State, that’s fine. But Durant’s new ring will still shine all the same. That banner will be every bit as beautiful.

Given the high levels of salt the basketball world experienced in 2010 and 2011 after LeBron joined a superteam in Miami, it’s hilarious to see so many memes defending James in critiques of the Warriors and Durant.

But it’s also so refreshing. Even a villain as reviled as LeBron can be forgiven by the masses. Just as the Warriors make the Heat look quaint to some, another team will come along eventually and break even more unwritten rules about how to fairly build a roster. Critics will retire their ire for Durant and the Warriors to train their aim on a new villain.

Eventually, people forget.

The record books don’t. The record books will remember this Warriors team for a long, long time.