After Nate Britt Jr. and Kris Jenkins first met in 2004 at an AAU tournament in Florida, Jenkins’ mother, Felicia, admired the discipline of Britt Jr.’s winning team, coached by his father, Nate Sr.
Jenkins had been struggling in school, didn’t have the right influence around him and his sister, Kori, was sick (she passed away after 11 months). Felicia and her husband, Kelvin, felt overwhelmed and knew their son needed a big change. After getting to know the Britts, and with Jenkins staying the summers at their house, the couple discussed a life-changing decision with Nate Sr. and his wife, Melody.
Around Feb. 2007, the Britts became Jenkins’ legal guardians, with Felicia and Kelvin still offering support, giving him words of encouragement and showing up for some of his games.
“I wanted to be there for them like my father was there for me,” said Nate Sr. last week, on the eve of Father’s Day. “He was all about academics. I just wanted to be with them every step of the way that I could, because I wanted them to know that I was there supporting them. I kind of felt that the best job that I could ever have is being a father.”
Not only did Britt Jr. and Jenkins excel in and out of the classroom together at Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) and win multiple AAU titles as teammates, but they also celebrated back-to-back national championships together. Jenkins won with Villanova (in 2016), while Britt Jr. won with North Carolina (this year), as Jenkins sat behind the Tar Heels’ bench.
Now tomorrow, the brothers could be drafted into the NBA.
“You couldn’t write this kind of script. It’s just truly unbelievable,” Britt Sr. said. “We discussed it a little bit after the national championship. Kris is, like, ‘Man, this is a great movie.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it is, but it’s our life.'”
Speaking with the NBPA, Britt Jr. and Jenkins reflected on their father’s impact—he coached them for many years—becoming brothers, favorite memories together and continuing their journey in the league.
NBPA: Describe the impact that Nate Sr. has had in your lives.
Nate Britt Jr.: Before Kris moved in with me, he was almost like my big brother. I have a younger sister, [Natalya], but I never had an older brother. I look at him as one of my closest friends—me being able to talk to him about anything and everything, knowing that I would get 100 percent honest feedback. He’s put so much time into me and my siblings as far as us being the best people we can be, and helping my mom for us to have the best opportunities. I now look at him, first and foremost, as a role model as far as the parent that he is to us three. It’s funny because growing up, I never wanted to be like him. There’s just kind of the tough love that he had on me. But as I’m getting older, I see myself growing to be more like him every day.
Kris Jenkins: It has been special and it’s continued to grow every day. And it’s something that I’m truly thankful for. It’s been one of the many blessings that I’ve had in my life, and it’s something that I cherish and never take for granted. And I really appreciate everything that the family has done for me and I never take it for granted, I never get complacent with it. I cherish it.
NBPA: What lessons did Nate Sr. instill you in guys?
NBJ: He brought me off the bench for a long time, from like maybe 10 to 16 years old—even when I felt like I deserved to start. The lesson there was that no one is going to give anything to you, and you have to earn everything you get in life—not just in basketball. And that’s helped me out so much throughout my entire basketball career. Being at Carolina, I might have started like one or two games here and there—even as a four-year guy, a veteran guy on a good team. But those early lessons helped me being able to come off the bench and help my team get wins.
KJ: He just really taught me and Nate how to be men. He taught us at a young age and held us to that standard. And it was tough, everything wasn’t pretty, but he’s always held us accountable for every little thing, which make a big difference in life. He always taught us the importance of competing and always working extremely hard, and never having anything given to us. So he’s been a great person to have in our lives.
NBPA: What did you learn from his coaching?
NBJ: He was probably harder on us than anybody else, and Kris and I both have learned from him. I think he’s one of the best coaches I’ve played for in terms of being able to make in-game adjustments and changing the game plan to help us come out with the win. He’s one of the best feel coaches. He just has a really good feel for the game.
KJ: He was a tough coach. He was on us pretty hard. He demanded a lot of us and it was for the better, and he instilled hard work, dedication and sacrifice. And those are things that we still hold true and we continue to carry with us every day.
NBPA: How did you both hit it off as friends?
NBJ: When Kris moved in with us, initially it didn’t feel like he was my brother. It just felt like he was a friend who was moving in. For me, at least for the first year maybe, it was just a lot of responsibility to make sure he meets everyone that I know and that he’s having a good time, and that he’s enjoying staying with us. It was just for me to show him the ropes of how me and my family did things, and then how things worked in our area. With him being new, we pretty much did everything together. It started just from us competing on the basketball court, because with him coming in he wanted to show that he was just as good as I was, if not better. And I think that competitive nature is what brought us closer on and off the basketball court.
KJ: We hit it off right away. There was never any animosity. At first, it might have been a little uncomfortable because we were both new to the situation. But as the days continued to go on, we got more comfortable.
NBPA: How did you guys adjust to the new living situation?
NBJ: When our family sat down to have the conversation that’s what was happening, it was just, like, “This is the right thing to do. Let’s do it and then move forward.” Neither me or my sister saw it really as a big deal, but there was like a time period where we did have to get adjusted to Kris living with us. I’ve always been the kind of guy that wanted to be all by myself. So I had to get used to Kris being there with me all the time. I had to make the adjustment of sharing all of my stuff a whole lot more. It was exactly like the movie Step Brothers, like, “I know you touched my drum set!” I think [the transition] took at least maybe a year and a half. But once I got used to it, it was almost as if Kris was born into our family. Now, it feels like he’s been with us forever.
KJ: I was young, so I didn’t really have any input. It was over my head, so I just had to make a move. It was just adjusting to being in a totally different area and just being away from my mom and my family. Those were the only tough things. When I got more comfortable and overcame those things, it made everything much easier. For Nate, I think at first he was just figuring it out like I was, but I just thought that we just helped each other. We went through all of our experiences together, we always had each other’s back, and we just continued to grow and learned about each other.
NBPA: How are you both similar and different?
NBJ: The biggest similarity is definitely the competitive nature that we have. And we both like to joke around and kid a lot. And we can talk trash with the best of them. If you get us going, we can talk a lot of trash. The difference I think is Kris enjoys the limelight more than I do. If it was up to me, I would stay out of the limelight and I would prefer to just go unbothered.
KJ: We’re both chill. We both love to laugh and spend time with our family. We both love the game of basketball. We both love to compete at everything. And I just think that for the most part, we’re just real chill. We’re pretty much the same. When we met, we just got along and we both had similar interests and goals in life. And that made it that much better, so it was a fun time.
NBPA: How competitive does it get?
NBJ: That’s how our family is. My dad played basketball in college, my mom was a Hall of Famer in track hurdles at her college. And then Kris, my sister and I all grew up playing sports, so even before Kris got there, everything we did was competitive. Like we’re always racing to the car when we’re leaving a restaurant. We used to race to see who would put their seatbelt on first. Our family always did stuff like that, and Kris had already been a competitor. So the competitive juices in him were already there, so he just came in and picked up right on it.
KJ: Everything is competitive—I mean, everything. But it’s fun.
NBPA: What are your favorite memories together from when you first met at 10 years old through high school?
NBJ: I would have to say in middle school and high school just dominating all of the teams we played. We were like the victory dogs on campus. And then on the AAU circuit, we always enjoyed those trips, like the tournaments where we’d be gone for a week and we stayed in a little house. We’d sit around and play Spades all night and wake up, go play games. Just those memories like that were extremely fun. Everyone is in the hotel having a good time together. We’re jumping on beds, flipping on the beds, and then just literally playing games every day.
KJ: Traveling for AAU, spending time with the family, going to different family functions, going to the dinner parties on Sunday. It was just honestly being around the family, and the basketball journey and going to school together. We won a lot of games, a lot of championships together, so probably just every tournament was fun and memorable. And hopefully one day we end up on the same team again.
NBPA: What was it like to celebrate the back-to-back national championships together?
NBJ: It’s extremely special for our family. I think the first time around, it’s hard because somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. So I think the first time around no matter what the outcome was going to be, we just looked at it as a special moment for our family.
KJ: It’s been great and it’s crazy to think that we have two championships in our house. Growing up as kids, we never ever thought that we would play each other in the national championship game or anything like that. So to have all those things happen, for us to win in 2016, for them to win this year, it’s very humbling. It’s crazy.
NBPA: Your special college success now continues with the opportunity to get drafted tomorrow. Talk about a storybook ending.
NBJ: It definitely could keep getting better and better. We’re both trying to play professionally and it’s possible that we end up on the same team somewhere. I think we will both love that because we haven’t played together for four years, and we pretty much played together our entire lives up until college. I don’t think there’s a better chemistry.
KJ: It’d be a dream come true for both of us, definitely, and it’s something that we’re both looking forward to. We’ve been working extremely hard and grinding for these opportunities, so we’re looking forward to it.
NBPA: Have you ever thought that your journey together could be a book or film one day?
NBJ: We’ve definitely talked about the possibilities and I think initially most of that came from our friends, like, “You and Kris are going to have a movie after this, or you guys can do a camp.” All of that stuff was coming from our friends who were just excited for us, and knew our relationship from the time that Kris moved in all the way up to the last few years.
KJ: It would be crazy. It would be something that could turn into things like that. When that comes, we’ll cross that bridge.