by Marcel Mutoni @ marcel_mutoni

Six long, painful years after their last trip to the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs are back in the championship round and playing for their fifth title.

Many doubted they’d ever get back here, but all along, Tony Parker believed.

The Spurs’ point guard made a promise to Tim Duncan that they weren’t too old to compete for another title, and Parker came through when it mattered most (TP’s 37 points sealed the 93-86 Game 4 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.)

Per Yahoo! Sports:

They had stood in that losing locker room in Oklahoma City a year ago, and Tony Parker made Tim Duncan a promise that would carry these San Antonio Spurs all the way to Monday night. I’ll get you back to the NBA Finals, Parker vowed. We aren’t done. You aren’t done. [...] Duncan “remembered [the promise] and reminds me every time we passed a playoff round,” Parker said. “He said, ‘We’re going to ride you to the end.’

“Timmy means a lot to me. I learned so much from him. From the first day I arrived in San Antonio he’s always had my back. He’s a very good friend, very close to me on the court and off the court. Our first championship we were riding him. He was our franchise. I feel very blessed because now it’s my turn to try to bring this team to the end. If I can do that for him, it would be … unbelievable.”

Tony Parker was a fresh-faced 21-year old when he won his first title. Now, he’s the grizzled veteran Tim Duncan and the rest of the Spurs look to carry them, and arguably the League’s best floor general:

“In 2007, we won our third one in five years, and you think it’s going to keep coming,” Parker said. “And I’m 25, and six years go by and every year it gets tougher.”

Assuming the Miami Heat join them in the NBA Finals, these San Antonio Spurs won’t be favored (they seemingly never are). Count them out at your own peril, however.