“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Edwards said. “There’s no other place to go. My first hero was ‘Dr. J’ and my basketball hero is Michael Jordan. This all started with the boys in Cairo letting a girl play with them, and now this girl is being inducted into a hall of fame alongside the greatest men players of all time. So many people played a part in my journey and I hope each and every one of them knows how much I appreciate them. I feel like a kid all over again, and I’m a little nervous, too. It’s like I’m going to be on the grandest of stages. I think I belong, but that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous about being there.”
Edwards is part of the 10-member Class of 2011, the Hall of Fame announced on Monday in Houston in association with the NCAA Men’s Final Four. Edwards was one of six previously announced finalists elected along with players Dennis Rodman and Chris Mullin and coaches Herb Magee, Tara VanDerveer and Tex Winter. The additional inductees selected via committees are: ABA star Artis Gilmore, international honoree Arvydas Sabonis, veteran Thomas “Satch” Sanders and Harlem Globetrotter Reece “Goose” Tatum. They will be enshrined during ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Aug. 11-13.
Edwards’ remarkable career spanned three decades at the highest levels of competition. In the summer of 1981, following her junior year at Cairo High School, Edwards became the youngest women’s basketball player ever invited to compete in a USA Basketball national tournament when she played for the South team at the National Sports Festival. That began a long and unparalleled career representing the United States on the hardwood.
Edwards was named Georgia’s all-classification Player of the Year in 1982 after leading Cairo High’s Syrupmaids to the AAA state championship and a 30-1 record. That fall, she began a stellar collegiate career at the University of Georgia. Edwards helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to their first-ever NCAA Final Four as a freshman in 1983, and NCAA runner-up finish in 1985 and SEC championships in 1983, 1984 and 1986. Edwards was a two-time All-American and finished her collegiate career with 1,989 points, 653 assists and 342 steals.
Georgia compiled a 116-17 record during her four seasons in Athens. Edwards earned a spot on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team following her sophomore year at UGA and went on to compete in the 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000 Summer Games. She captured four Olympic Gold Medals (‘84, ‘88, ‘96 and ‘00), as well as a bronze in 1992, and holds the unique distinction of being both the youngest and oldest woman’s basketball player to win Olympic gold.
Edwards also represented the U.S. in virtually every significant international competition for the rest of the 20th century. All told, she played in 216 games representing the U.S., scoring 2,000 points, handing out 890 assists, grabbing 576 rebounds and collecting 372 steals while shooting 50.2 percent from the field. The national teams that Edwards played for compiled a 205-14 record.
Edwards’ reputation transcended basketball. In 1996, she was the one competitor among the 10,318 athletes from 197 nations at the Centennial Olympics chosen to read the Athlete’s Oath at the Opening Ceremony in Atlanta. Edwards also enjoyed an ultrasuccesful professional career. She played in Italy, Japan, Spain, France and Russia before occupying a formative role in the advent of professional leagues in the U.S. Edwards was a member of the ABL’s board of directors and served as a player/coach for the Atlanta Glory. She wrapped up her career with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx in 2003 and 2004. In 2004, Edwards received the WNBA’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award.
The Naismith honor represents the seventh Hall of Fame to enshrine Edwards. She was a member of the inaugural class for UGA’s all-sports Circle of Honor in 1995 and was inducted into the State of Georgia’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, the National High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, the Grady County Sports Hall of Game in 2009, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Earlier this year, Edwards received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which annually recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletic careers. She also was named the No. 22 greatest female athlete – and No. 2 basketball player – of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.