Every year there’s a champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and each year they’re impressive, incredible children who are way smarter than any of us, and destined to dominate their chosen fields to be future leaders of America. Notice that effusive praise misses one key word: “cool.” It’s tough to say the winner of the spelling bee is demonstrably cool, but now that’s all changed.
On Thursday night, 14-year-old Zalia Avant-garde of Louisiana took home the prize by spelling “murraya,” while flexing on the bee by goofing around and making a Bill Murray reference.
Zaila Avant-garde is the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion! pic.twitter.com/eNsy35ctcW— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 9, 2021
“Does this word contain like the English word murray, which would be the name of a comedian?”
In winning the competition, Avant-garde became the first black American student to capture the Scripps National Spelling Bee, prompting the world to learn more about her — and when we did, it was incredible.
As great a speller as Avante-garde is, the 14-year-old might be a better basketball player. She holds three Guinness World Records for trick dribbling, appeared in a Stephen Curry commercial in 2018, and has a twitter account littered with he basketball exploits.
6th & 7th grade #Highlights. Wait 'till you see her now , ⚡️ #waayyybetter. Been working like usual. [For more extensive highlights check out her Instagram page: @basketballasart]. pic.twitter.com/xkUcgtvSXW— Zaila Avant-garde (@Basketballasart) October 19, 2020
Oh, she can also dribble multiple basketballs while riding a unicycle and has future plans that include becoming an NBA coach, or being an astronaut for NASA, or an immunologist, or maybe even a scientist who studies gene therapy. When you’re this good at life, it’s nice to have choices.
As if this all wasn’t enough, there’s her last name “Avant-garde,” which wasn’t her birth name, but rather changed by her father after being inspired by John Coltrane. It’s the perfect kicker to a remarkable life that only started 14 years ago, and is destined to influence the world for years to come in whatever field she chooses.
Congratulations to Zalia Avant-garde, who is already cooler than I will ever be, has records I will never attain, and a life laid out for her more impressive than anyone I know. Selfishly I hope she sticks to basketball, only because I want to follow her for the next decade.