Spelling Bee Champ Zaila Avant-garde Is also a Record-Holding Basketball Prodigy

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, holds the trophy after winning the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., July 8, 2021

By Zachary Evans – July 9, 2021 4:06 PM – for National Review

Zaila Avant-garde became the first African American to win the Scripps Spelling Bee on Thursday evening, after correctly spelling the word “murraya.”

However, Avant-garde, a fourteen-year-old from Harvey, La., already has a number of other accomplishments to her name. Avant-garde is a basketball player with several Guinness World Records, including most basketballs dribbled simultaneously and most basketball bounces in 30 seconds with four basketballs.

“Basketball, I’m not just playing it. I’m really trying to go somewhere with it. Basketball is what I do,” Avant-garde said in an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday. “Spelling is really a side thing I do. It’s like a little hors d’ouevre. But basketball’s like the main dish.”

👀🤯 Zaila in the @nytimes. [🤜🤛💯 @guinnessworldrecords]. #ZailaAvantgarde #newsmaker #newyorktimes #guinnessworldrecords #extraextra pic.twitter.com/Omx3Sl92Zi

— Zaila Avant-garde (@Basketballasart) February 28, 2021

On her Twitter account, Avant-garde has posted compilations of her playing on and off the court:

#6thgrader. Zaila Avant-garde, 👀🏆. #basketballasart pic.twitter.com/Jlb2nckQs6

— Zaila Avant-garde (@Basketballasart) March 23, 2020

🤹🏾‍♀️ pic.twitter.com/BrwAEA6SSV

— Zaila Avant-garde (@Basketballasart) April 17, 2021

Avant-garde also showcased her talents in a commercial with Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry:

Avant-garde studied and competed for spelling bee competitions for two years, memorizing words with her father. Originally bearing the last name Heard, Zaila’s father changed it to Avant-garde in honor of jazz great John Coltrane.

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