Spelling bee champ and Guinness World Record holder Zaila Avant-garde was named the 2021 SportsKid of the Year.

14-year-old, Avant-garde has undoubtedly embraced her last name, pursuing her larger-than-life talents such as winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee, setting multiple world records for dribbling, and being an elite basketball player leading her to be honored with a front-page spread on by Sports Illustrated Kids.



The Louisiana native is a walking dictionary, innovator, and creative. The Scripps National Spelling Bee champ has read more than 1,000 books and has set multiple world records for dribbling basketball. 

This year's spelling bee took place in Orlando, FL, where Avant-garde outlasted ten other finalists, winning on the word "Murraya," becoming the first African-American contestant to win.

"It's kind of bittersweet for me," Zaila says. "I'm super happy to be the first African-American girl to win. But also it's like, this should not be happening. I should not be the only one doing it."

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement on Twitter regarding Avant-garde's honor.

"Whether she’s dribbling on the court, winning the national spelling bee, or encouraging fellow Louisianans to get the COVID vaccine, Zaila Avant-garde makes Louisiana proud. Congratulations on being the Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year," he tweeted. 

Outside of her spelling bee-winning title, Avant-garde is known to be an elite-level ballplayer. Basketball is more than just a sport to the young triple threat. Avant-garde has devoted herself to playing the sport for nearly ten years.

"Spelling is just a side thing I do," Avant-garde said. "My main thing is basketball." 

"Basketball, at least for me, is not played just to score or something like that," she continued. "Of course, you want to score in a basketball game, but you also want to do art. And my four-ball dribbling and five-ball dribbling is art."

All the hours put into practice have turned Avant-garde into quite a force as a point guard.  

"I love to pass and give assists because I love to get my other teammates involved and just make them happy and make their days go better." Avant-garde said.

Congratulations! Avant-garde is setting the tone for how multidimensional young black women are.