the Storm + the Hurricane: Simone Edwards

Today, I’m giddy with excitement. The Seattle Storm are once again poised to clinch the WNBA championship title. I’m as proud of this team today as I was two titles ago. They’ve worked extremely hard to get to the synergy they have today. I was a season ticket holder from day one and was there screaming until I was hoarse when they won the title in 2004 and again in 2010. I went to almost every single game for years. And one of my favorite players back then, was Simone Edwards, the Jamaican Hurricane who could rally the crowd like no one else. She’d run out from the tunnel and do her signature body shimmy with Doppler, the mascot, and the crowd would roar. When the chips were down, she’d strut around the court and lift her long arms up in an upside down wave, demanding the crowd to engage, support and rally the team—in that one motion, she let us know we, the fans, mattered. There’s never been a player like Simone who connects with the crowd in such a personal way. And that’s because she has such a big, gargantuan heart.

Simone retired from basketball in 2006 and set up a foundation for girls in Jamaica. Her life story is an incredible tale of resilience, perseverance and commitment to change. If you’re looking for inspiration from a woman who has overcome insurmountable odds and has never forgotten her roots, you should read her book, Unstoppable: A Memoir of Adversity, Perseverance and Triumph.

I don’t know if she knows this, but on the very day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I attended the Storm game. Turns out it was breast cancer awareness night. The team came onto the court and tossed pink squishy balls to the crowd. I stood up, even though I never got tossed anything, and there was Simone, looking at me. She tossed that pink ball and I lifted my hand up and actually palmed it. Like, palmed it. In that moment, I felt a connection that I will never forget. And I felt like I was going to be ok. She has a way of doing that for people. Even those she doesn’t know.

So to have Simone agree to an interview and to rep the TomboyX brand, is more than a dream come true. It’s an honor and a privilege to be associated with a person of such character, who is unapologetically who she was born to be, every single day. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.

You learned to play basketball barefoot on a hot pavement in Jamaica. What thoughts kept you pushing during this time?

My mother and mama (our next door neighbor who helped take care of me since birth) were my biggest push. I was also tired of the killings and gunshots in my community and the surrounding areas. I watched mama and mommy work from morning until night just to barely survive. I wanted to spoil them and I wanted more for myself—basketball was my way to achieve these and other goals.

What’s it been like to go back Kingston after achieving so much success in your career?

My trips back to Kingston is always fulfilling. I get to see my family, give out gifts to children and sometimes coach or play for the National Women's Basketball team. The best part about going home is to shower mama with gifts and money. People in my community would give me lots of praise for my achievements and charitable work because they’re proud I’m from their community.

You do a lot of community outreach in Kingston (and around the globe) through your non-profit, Simone4Children Foundation. Why is giving back important to you?

I made a promise as a child that if I got out of poverty I would give back to kids living in poverty.  My foundation is my pride and joy, but most of all it's my way to give a child an opportunity to succeed in life. We now have a building for the homework program and are raising funds to start a youth center where I grew up so that these kids will have access to computers, printers, counselors, help with school work, etc. I know what it’s like to be poor and I probably will never get rich since I keep giving back. I don't need much when I know I can put a smile on a child's face.

One topic you touch on a lot in your book is failure—what is one of the most valuable failures you’ve experienced in your life?

I lost almost everything when the housing market crashed because of investments. I couldn't sponsor kids for school anymore and I had to stop a meal program I was paying for at a kindergarten—I felt as if I have failed the children and my mommy and mama. I will never forget that feeling.

What does it feel like to win a game as important as the WNBA championship?

I was with the Seattle Storm since the first practice. We won only six games the first season and got blown out almost every game. I watched as the Seattle fans cheered us on every single game and they won my heart. Giving them a championship is our way of saying thank you for riding with us. Personally, I wanted a poor Jamaican girl to see me and know that her present circumstance does not dictate her future. It was bigger than a championship to me. I became hope for many.

In what ways have you seen changes in the WNBA since the start of your career?

The salary went up a lot since the inaugural season, but as usual nothing even close to our male counterparts in the NBA. Players are marrying their same-sex spouses which is pretty awesome because Love Wins all the time. It's just the fact that they felt safe enough to do so when they shouldn't have to feel unsafe in the first place.

Do you see yourself in any of the players you coach now?

I have coached a few players in the past who were very passionate about the game and gave it their all on the court like I did. My dream is to one day coach in the WNBA or NBA.

What’s one piece of advice you wish you could give young Simone at the beginning of her career?

Dunk the ball, Simone. I could jump above the rim from when I was a teenager but never dunked in a game. That would have turned my career around.