February 17, 2023 

2004 WNBA champion Simone Edwards passes away after battling ovarian cancer

WNBA champion Simone Edwards passes away at age 49

Former WNBA player Simone Edwards, a 6’4 center, passed at age 49 after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer. Olivia Grange, a member of the Jamaica Parliament, first broke the news of Edwards’ passing on her Twitter account yesterday.

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Before playing in the WNBA, Edwards played junior college basketball at Seminole State College in Oklahoma and led the team to an undefeated record. In 1994, she transferred to play for Iowa for three seasons. Throughout her tenure, Edwards led the Hawkeyes with a sweet 16 appearance in her junior year.

In 1997, Edwards was a developmental player for the New York Liberty and did not see playing time until she joined the expansion team in Seattle three years later. Edwards became the first Jamaican player to play in a WNBA game. Storm fans gave her the nickname “Jamaican Hurricane” during her tenure with Seattle, and she won her first WNBA championship in 2004. In 2006, Edwards retired from playing in the league after playing for the Storm for the team’s first six seasons. She also became a member of the All-decade team for the Seattle Storm in the 2000s.

Throughout her career in the WNBA, Edwards averaged 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds and appeared in 178 games.

After announcing her retirement, Edwards had stints as an assistant coach for Radford University in 2007 and George Mason University from 2008-11. She led the Jamaican women’s national team to its first-ever Caribbean championship as head coach in 2014.

Edwards gave Storm fans an encouraging message on her Facebook page after Breanna Stewart signed with the New York Liberty.

“I just want to remind you of something,” Edwards said. “It took us until 2004 to win our first championship, and I was a part of that. One of the best memories because of my WNBA career. We won about six games in our first year and had no major stars, but we played our hearts out.”

Edwards elaborated on her story of building a championship culture with WNBA legends Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson during her career with the Storm.

“The second year Lauren [Jackson] came, we still didn’t win a championship, but we played our hearts out,” Edwards said. “The third year Sue [Bird] came, we didn’t win a championship, but we played our hearts out. The fans cheered us on because they were not just there to see wins but because they loved the game and how hard we played. We won the next year because we kept improving as a team.”

Paulton Gordon, the President of the Jamaica Basketball Association, said in a statement, “that the league is very supportive of her family … we have lost somebody who is a really good person for basketball.”

The Seattle Storm tweeted a statement after the passing of Edwards was announced.

“We are saddened by the passing of our very own Simone Edwards,” the team said. “Our Jamaican Hurricane was a warrior on & off the court. With her indefatigable energy & optimism, she brought happiness to so many. Our thoughts & condolences are with Simone’s family and loved ones at this time.”

Outside of basketball, Edwards wrote and published Unstoppable, a book about finding hope after overcoming challenges. She also founded the Simone4Children foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on helping underprivileged children around Jamaica with support in education, mentorship, and bullying prevention. Edwards also gave back to the neighborhood in Kingston and the Caribbean regions with community service programs.

“Simone4Children is breaking the poverty cycle,” Edwards said in a letter on the website. “I ask you to join me on this journey. This is our legacy. This is our chance to make a difference. Together, we will make a difference in the lives of children in poverty.”

Written by Aya Abdeen

Aya Abdeen is a student in sports journalism at Arizona State University and has been a contributing writer for The Next Hoops since December 2022. Her work has also appeared on AZPreps365.

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