Simone Edwards: First Caribbean and Jamaican Female in the WNBA

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Simone Edwards was a pioneer of women’s basketball in Jamaica. Although she was a late bloomer, she played at the highest level, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). After her incredible career, Edwards transitioned into coaching. 

Throughout her career, she established programs allowing her to give back to the community. In this post, we reflect on her career and her impact on and off the court.

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Simone Edwards’ Childhood

Remembering Simone Edwards. Video Credit: FOX 13 Seattle

Edwards didn’t have an easy childhood. She was born in Jamaica and grew up in St. Andrews, an environment surrounded by gang violence. Together with other community members, they saw bullet shells on the streets after a night of gunfire. Despite the fear that came along with this, the basketballer appreciated her childhood.

Her mum worked constantly to provide for the family; her father was a police officer. Edwards was one of the best athletes during sports day in school. At the time, she did track & field. 

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Getting into Basketball

Her decision to switch to basketball happened by chance. During the national high school girls’ championship, Edwards was approached by two men who introduced themselves as basketball coaches. They were impressed by her athletic ability, and at 6 foot 4 inches, she had the height of a basketballer. 

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Playing Basketball

After a year of learning basketball, she joined Seminole State College on a sports scholarship. This is where she made her name. She helped the team to a top 10 ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association and an undefeated season. In her senior season, Edwards represented the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, where she was the co-captain. 

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Joining the WNBA

She successfully participated in a New York Liberty camp tryout and was a developmental player for the WNBA team. Unfortunately, she never played for them. In 2000, Simone Edwards moved to the newly formed Seattle Storm

Edwards made it into the team and became the first Jamaican to play in the WNBA. She spent six years on the team and won the WNBA Championship in 2004. In 2006, the basketballer retired from the WNBA. 

She was also part of the Jamaican national team that won the country’s first medal at the 2006 Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championships.  

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Coaching Career

After her successful playing career, Simone Edwards took up coaching. She worked as an assistant coach at Radford University and then went to George Mason University. In 2014, Edwards returned to the national team as a coach and worked for them in the Caribbean Championship.

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Away from the Court

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A basketball court. Source: Unsplash

Simone Edwards was active off the court just like she was in court. She started Simone4Children to support the community back home in Jamaica. This allowed her to work with organizations like Food for the Poor. This led to the construction of a school program in her community to help children do their homework.  

She was part of the founding team of the Diverse Writers Room, an outlet that gives voice to women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. Edwards published her memoir Unstoppable, in which she shares her experience of growing up in a poor neighborhood rife with violence and how she found her way out. 

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Awards

For her contribution to the growth of basketball in Jamaica, the government bestowed Simone Edwards with the Order of Distinction.

Simone Edwards died in February 2023 from ovarian cancer. Her legacy in the sport will always be felt. She carved a path for herself, having come from a poor background and deviated from the country’s main sport, track & field, which she was good at.   

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