Zaila Avant-garde got the gold at the Scripps Spelling Bee on Thursday, but her history-making win is far from her first trophy. The Louisiana-based 14-year-old is also an accomplished basketball player, except her dribbling is not what you’d see on the average court.
Prior to becoming the first Black American to win the prestigious spelling bee, Avant-garde was best-known for holding three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously. The teen often showcases the dazzling skill for her social media followers. Check out this trick video from April.
The specific world records Avant-garde broke are for: most balls juggled in one minute with four basketballs, most dribbles in 30 seconds with four basketballs and most basketballs dribbled by one person simultaneously.
Avant-garde’s accolades caught the attention of one of the NBA’s star players, landing her a starring role in ad with Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
The young Renaissance woman isn’t just a novelty player though. If you’re doubting Avant-garde’s pure basketball skills, watch her shoot straight buckets in this other video.
On Thursday night, Avant-garde beat out 10 other young scholars from across the country. The competition ultimately came down to Avant-garde and 12-year-old Chaitra Thummala before a rapid-fire exchange of botanical quiz words ended with the Avant-garde winning on the word “murraya” (it’s a flowering plant, commonly known as orange jasmine).
In the spelling bee’s nearly 100-year history, Avant-garde is the first Black American winner. The only previous Black winner was Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica in 1998.