Jamaican Simone Edwards, a star Seattle Storm player in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), died of ovarian cancer at the age of 49 at her Florida home on February 16, 2023. She was diagnosed with the disease in early 2021.
Simone Edwards was born in Kinston, Jamaica, in 1973. While she did not play basketball in high school, she was first spotted by a basketball coach from a college in the United States when she competed in a track meet in Jamaica. She first came to the attention of the public when playing at her junior college, Seminole State College in Oklahoma. As a member of the team, Edwards, who was six-feet-4-inches tall, led her team to an undefeated conference record and a ranking in the Top 10 of the National Junior College Athletic Association. She was the First Kodak All-American in the history of the college, and in 1996, during her senior season, led the University of Iowa team in field goal percentage with .557.
Edwards was the first Jamaican female player to play in the WNBA. She was one of the three players selected from a field of more than 300 athletes during a tryout camp for the New York Liberty and was chosen as a developmental player by the team in 1997. She did not play a game until she signed on to play center with the new Seattle Storm team in 2000 and was the only player to be a member of the team for every game during its first six seasons. She was the winner of the 2004 WNBA championship with the Storm, whose fans knew her as the “Jamaican Hurricane.” Edwards retired from the WNBA in 2006 as the team’s all-time leader in minutes, games played, and rebounds.
She continued playing basketball as a professional in Europe and Israel and coached the Jamaican women’s national team, leading the team to a Caribbean Championship in 2014. She was hired in 2007 as an assistant coach at Radford University and served as an assistant at George Mason University from 2008 to 2011.
She became the National Spokesperson for Caribbean American Heritage Month in 2017. In that same year, she released her memoir, “Unstoppable: A Memoire of Adversity, Perseverance, & Triumph.” The government of Jamaica appointed her an Officer of the Order of Distinction (OD) in 2017 in recognition of her outstanding service to Jamaica in the field of sport.
In a Twitter post, the Storm expressed sadness at the passing of Simone Edwards and described her as “a warrior on and off the court” and as someone with “indefatigable energy and optimism” who brought happiness to many people.