There weren’t many victories in the inaugural season of the Seattle Storm.
To date, the team’s 6-26 record in 2000 remains the worst in franchise history.
But Simone Edwards remembers that year fondly.
“Even when we were down 20, people were standing up and cheering for us near the end of the game,” she says.
The 6-foot-4 center was still there four years later when the Storm won its first WNBA championship, as one of just two players left from that first team.
With that title, she had reached the pinnacle of the world’s top women’s basketball league, a far cry from the humble beginnings of her youth in Jamaica, growing up in what she calls a “gang-infested village.”
“When I just started, I didn’t have basketball shoes,” she says. “I’m in the hot sun on the pavement — barefoot — learning the game, because I was too poor to get the shoes, and I wanted to quit.”
But she didn’t. Or, rather, she couldn’t.
“I think, if I quit I won’t have a scholarship,” she says. “My mom doesn’t have any money to send me to college, and I don’t want to be like some of the other women on the side of the road.”
The “Jamaican Hurricane” is now sharing that story, in the form of her new self-published memoir, “Unstoppable.” The book is a culmination of a two-year process with co-author Jobi Tyson, in part “so all of the kids can see that your present circumstances should not dictate your future.”
Part of the challenge, she says, was reliving some of the more difficult moments of her upbringing.
“You’re going through that hard time, [and] you just start breaking down,” she says. “Because it pulls you back there.”
But those struggles weren’t for naught, as she earned a scholarship to play basketball at Seminole Junior College in Seminole, Oklahoma, later becoming the school’s first Kodak All-American. She then transferred to the University of Iowa, before signing with the New York Liberty as a developmental player for the league’s inaugural season. It wasn’t until she joined the Storm in 2000 that she saw game action.
Edwards quickly established herself in Seattle, averaging just over seven points per game in each of her first three seasons. Though her minutes would steadily decrease, and her role diminished as the team improved, she hung on to a roster spot through 2005. By the time she retired on the eve of the 2006 season, she led the franchise in games played, and was third in rebounds, fourth in points and blocked shots, and fifth in steals.
“I always want to play at a certain level,” she says. “I want to dive, I want to run … and so when you can’t do that anymore, you know it’s time for someone else.”
She hasn’t strayed far from the game since, serving as an assistant coach at Radford University and later George Mason, along with a stint as head coach of the Jamaican National Team. Edwards led the latter to a gold medal at the 2014 Caribbean Basketball Championship, eight years after winning the country’s first title as team captain.
But perhaps most important has been her work away from the court. While in Seattle, she founded the Simone4Children Foundation to help kids in her home country. Those efforts included the establishment of a learning center in Kingston to support underprivileged youth.
“I thought about it,” she says. “When I was younger and I needed help with certain things, you look around — there’s not many people to help — but if I can put a place where these kids can just walk in and get help with their schoolwork, then that will make a big difference, in their confidence, with their grades.”
Her hope is that the book can be a boost to those endeavors.
“There’s so much more I can do if I sell more books,” she says.
She’d also like to do more in the Emerald City in the coming seasons to keep her link to the fans that cheered during those win-modest early years. On Sunday, she hosted a fan clinic with long-time season-ticket holders, and signed copies of her book prior to the team’s final regular season home game.
“It’s my fan connection more than anything else that I love about Seattle,” she says.
And despite being more than a decade removed from donning a Storm uniform, the now-43-year-old says she would welcome a spot on the end of the bench. Just not one that involves actually taking the court, that is.
“If they would keep me on the end of the bench, and I just cheer,” she says, “I would be there still.”
Even if they’re down by 20 near the end.
To learn more about Edwards, or to order her book, go to www.jamaicanhurricane.com.