NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 21: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers injures his right shoulder during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on January 21, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant tore his right rotator cuff in the Los Angeles Lakers’ latest defeat, the club announced Thursday.
Bryant injured his right shoulder in the second half of the Lakers’ loss at New Orleans on Wednesday night when he drove the baseline for a two-handed dunk.
An MRI exam Thursday in San Antonio revealed the tear, and Bryant headed home to Los Angeles while the Lakers prepared to play the Spurs on Friday.
The Lakers declined to speculate on the severity of the injury, but many rotator cuff injuries require surgery and several months of rehabilitation.
Bryant briefly returned to the game in New Orleans and played essentially with one arm after the injury, making a 14-foot jumper with his left hand. He is a right-handed shooter.
After the game, Bryant said it felt as if his shoulder "came out of joint a little bit" on the dunk.
"I felt fine when I went up, and didn’t feel too good when I came down," he said.
Bryant is the third-leading scorer in NBA history, but he had played in just six games over the previous 18 months before this season began after recovering from two major leg injuries.
Bryant has sat out eight games in the past month strictly to rest. Coach Byron Scott is attempting to preserve his 36-year-old superstar through the length of his contract, which extends to next season.
Bryant is the NBA’s highest-paid player this season, making $23.5 million this year and $25 million next year.
Bryant is averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.