Kobe Bryant has a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, Lakers officials said Thursday.
After an MRI exam in San Antonio revealed the injury, team officials declined to give a prognosis for Bryant until he could be reevaluated in Los Angeles on Friday.
However, the injury has the potential to severely impact Bryant's availability the rest of the season.
The Lakers star was injured while dunking in the third quarter of the Lakers' 96-80 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday. After the game, he said the shoulder had bothered him for a while and played down the severity of the injury. He said his shoulder "came out a little bit" but added that he had played with a torn labrum earlier in his career.
Physical therapists and orthopedic experts contacted by The Times said the severity of the tear was the main factor in determining Bryant's course of action.
If it was a full tear, he would almost surely miss the rest of the season. If it was only a partial tear, he would likely need a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation before trying to play again, though he would probably be in pain if his shot got blocked or he tried to wrench the basketball away from an opponent.
Or Bryant, who has a notoriously high pain threshold, could try to play immediately and opt for surgery or rehabilitation after the season.
Bryant, 36, has missed eight of the Lakers' last 16 games in order to give him rest.
He had 14 points against New Orleans and played primarily with his left hand in the fourth quarter of that game. For the season, he's averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists but shooting only 37.2%.
Bryant was expected to be selected as an All-Star starter for a 17th time later Thursday.
The Lakers (12-31) are set play at San Antonio on Friday before returning home.