This weeks Sports Illustrated article on the Laker's championship and Kobe Bryant's determination reveal that terms like "great athlete" and "natural talent" are tremendously misleading. The article talks about Bryant's 5:30am workout after the Lakers took a 3-1 series lead.
From a coaching and athletic development perspective, Bryant's training regimen is fascinating and I think is adaptable to young athletes too (in fact, elements are being used in various sports, but not widely). Perhaps as remarkable the team winning the championship is Kobe's elite performance over such a long time - two years of almost continuous basketball (2 full NBA seasons + playoffs [Lakers were in the finals both years] + the Olympic Games tournament).
I think this excerpt from the article focuses on an training area, all athletes need to focus on to reduce injuries and increase enjoyment of the sport:
....Grover's modifications were small but important. Bryant had never been an advocate of cold tubs; Grover had him taking ice baths frequently for muscle recovery. He focused on strengthening Bryant's ankles, wrists, hips—"areas that don't make you look better in your jersey but can become nagging injuries," Grover says. The result is that, despite having played for nearly three years straight due to his Olympic commitments, Bryant came into these Finals free of ankle braces, shoulder wraps and sleeves—although his right ring finger, dislocated earlier in the season, remained taped. He even wore low-top shoes...
When I see middle-school and high school athletes wearing knee braces, my first thought is they need to train for the sport. The injury reveals a need to correct their technique and fitness.