Tony Parker keeps his promises.
"I'll get you back to the NBA Finals," Parker told Duncan, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. "We aren't done. You aren't done."
It was a pledge Duncan never let Parker forget. With each passing playoff-round victory, Duncan would remind his point guard of the assertion he made and told him, "We're going to ride you to the end."
One year after that gut-wrenching loss to the Thunder, Parker has made good on the pact he made. After four successive victories over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007.
For Parker, Duncan and the rest of the Spurs, this isn't the "end." Parker has brought Duncan back to the finals just like he said he would, but he's still not done.
Parker wants to get Duncan his fifth NBA championship ring.
"Our first championship, we were riding him," Parker explained in Spears' story. "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."
This marks the fourth NBA Finals appearance the Spurs have made since the dawn of their Big Three—Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili—in 2002. They've won a championship in each of their three previous excursions to the finals.
Before that, Duncan helped lead San Antonio to a ring in 1999, so while Parker and Ginobili are in the running for their fourth NBA titles, Duncan is looking for his fifth, and Parker wants to deliver it to him.
Securing a fifth championship would further immortalize Duncan.
He would join the company of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and the 23 other players who have at least five NBA titles to their credit. That fifth ring would fuel the case for Duncan as the greatest player of his generation and the best power forward of all time.
To get to five, Duncan must continue to ride Parker. Never before has Duncan been so dependent on his point man or so reliant upon the performance of someone else. At age 37, Duncan has no choice.
Duncan is at the top of his game, operating on what some would consider borrowed time. Still, he cannot do this alone—nor does he have to try.
"I'm excited to be here," Duncan said, according to Spears. "It's a really great feeling. I don't know how else to explain it. It's been a really long time. It's fun to know that I'm going back to the finals."
Duncan knows, however, that Parker's promise may not stop there.