Kobe Bryant tears right rotator cuff, could be out for the season

Nine years ago today, Kobe Bryant put on a performance for the ages, scoring 81 points in a win over the Toronto Raptors, an effort that in a lot of ways is more impressive than Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record of 100 points in a game.

Thursday’s anniversary of that showcase came with more somber news, as an MRI revealed Bryant has suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. The injury, usually associated with baseball pitchers, occurred during Wednesday’s Lakers loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The team announced the injury on Twitter …

and on its website:

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who injured his right shoulder in the second half of last night's game against the Pelicans in New Orleans, had an MRI exam today in San Antonio. Preliminary results from the MRI show a tear of the rotator cuff. Bryant will return to Los Angeles later today and will be examined by team doctors tomorrow. An update on his condition will be issued at that time.

As you’ll recall, Bryant injured the shoulder on a sweet spin-and-dunk move on Wednesday and left the game soon after. He convinced Lakers coach Byron Scott to let him and his one healthy arm back in the contest with the Lakers down double-digits, and in a failure of leadership, Scott complied with his ex-teammate. Kobe spent the rest of the night shooting left-handed, in a move our Eric Freeman compared with Monty Python’s famous Black Knight. Watch:

The most recent NBA player to tear his rotator cuff is San Antonio’s Patty Mills. Mills injured his shoulder in July and didn’t return until recently, so every indication points to Bryant being out for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. Bryant has openly mused about walking away from the game (and a $25 million contract for 2015-16) this summer, but it’s hard to believe he would end his NBA career with one last chance to get it right.

Still, a third season-ending injury in three consecutive seasons? These are cruel, dispiriting blows; and even with Kobe’s commitment to competitiveness and his love of the game apparent, it’ll be difficult to discern just how hard this most recent injury hits him psychologically.

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The Lakers have lost six of eight games with Bryant out of the lineup thus far in 2014-15, and figure to challenge the Minnesota Timberwolves for the worst record in the league. Scott was always planning on shutting Bryant down early as this lost season droned on, but nobody could have predicted something as calamitous – and possibly career-threatening – as this.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!