NBA Star J.R. Smith Shares Moving Photo of First Time Holding Tiny Preemie Daughter

Cleveland Cavaliers star J.R. Smith finally got to hold his tiny preemie daughter for the first time this week. He shared his joy—and a precious picture—with the world on Instagram.

“Today is one of the greatest days of my life,” he wrote. “Today I get to hold my youngest for the first time! GOD is GREAT!” He added the hashtag #DakotaStrong.

Smith and his wife, Jewel, announced in October that they were expecting their third child. The Cavs star, who helped lead the team to a championship last year, had just re-signed with the team and the family seemed like they were on top of the world.

But little Dakota was born just after the first of the year, arriving five months early. She weighed just one pound.

Five days after their birth, Dakota’s parents announced her premature birth in a video and asked for prayers for their daughter. They vowed to pray for other families who were going through the same thing.

“We know we’re not the only family going through this, who has been through this, and who will ever go through it. That’s why we decided to share what we’re going through with you guys,” said Jewel.

Since then, J.R. has been posting updates about Dakota on Instagram. 

In December he posted a picture of big sister Demi peeking in on Dakota in her incubator. Is there anything more precious than those little toes? (Ok, J.R.’s massive man hands next Dakota’s tiny hands is a  pretty precious sight. Let’s just call it a tie.)

Jewel also posted a pic of herself holding baby Dakota this week:

On her blog she wrote about the experience of holding her daughter for the very first time:

“Like Dew in the Morning.” I have not heard this song in ages so when it dropped in my spirit at first I brushed it off.  A few hours later when I got into my truck I pulled the song up on you tube, the lyrics and sound that came from my speakers ministered directly to my heart.  “Like the dew in the morning gently rest upon my heart”, my happy tears started flowing instantly and the chills I got spoke volumes. I thought to myself; so this is why this very song rang in my head as I held Dakota! YES!! I said it I held my baby girl for the very first time today.  34 days later it was time; time for me to smell her, time for her to rest in my spirit and most importantly time for her to lay on my heart.  My sweet Dakota, your touch has calmed my soul and your warmth has fueled the energy I needed to keep going.  I am so grateful to have seen this day, for over two hours her and I soaked in each others presence.  The numbers on her monitors told me this experience was all that and a bag of chips for her; the look and smile on my face did the very same for me.  Next In line was daddy also known as poppa bear :) when I tell you this man was skinning and grinning I felt his energy it was vibrant and contageous.  Kota Bear looked like a little shrimp laying on her dads chest,  I called my view of them two a miraculaous work of art because his tattoos surrounded her tiny body in such a unique way; she added another piece to the story that was already permanently written on his body.  We both have grown to understand and comprehend that it is the little things in life that truly matters, the things you can learn from and appreciate; the experiences that help us grow. This day will truly be one of many that has a lasting impression on our hearts, we have experienced and gained a peace in our minds that has surpassed our own understanding.

In a post last month, Jewel praised the NICU staff that works tirelessly and sacrifices on behalf of micro-preemies:

“These teams are definitely worth the praise and we feel in our hearts that they do not get enough of it,” she said. “To each and every doctor, nurse and staff member who continues to hold the NICU down [J.R. and I] see you, we commend you and we appreciate YOU.”

“We know at times you go home with a heavy heart just like us because you are with our preemies just as much as we are if not more.  The road to Dakotas graduation will be a long journey; months to be exact but, God could not have hand picked a better team to pull her through.  The bond is real, the attachment is inevitable and the love is genuine this is why you all will be our extended family FOREVER!”

Dakota still has some obstacles to overcome before she’ll be able to go home.

J.R. Smith is recovering from thumb surgery and isn’t expected to return to the team until March, which means he’ll have some extra time to help take care of his family.