The Lakers said Bryant will return to Los Angeles and will be examined by team doctors Friday instead of playing that night against the Spurs. The team said an update on Bryant's condition would be issued then.
Sources told ESPN.com that Bryant will miss the rest of the season if it is determined he needs surgery. There is strong concern within the organization that is indeed the case, the sources said.
Bryant has been dealing with this shoulder injury since the preseason, sources said.
He apparently aggravated it with 4:14 left in the third quarter against the Pelicans when he drove baseline for a two-handed dunk.
"It felt fine when I went up, didn't feel too good when I came down," Bryant said after the game.
He grabbed his shoulder as he ran back down the court and checked out of the game a few minutes later.
Bryant checked back in with five minutes left in the fourth quarter and immediately favored his shoulder. He tried to rebound and dribble with his left hand, but it became clear something was wrong when he shot and made a turnaround 14-foot jumper with just his left hand.
"Obviously after I saw that everything he did was with the left hand, I knew then, let's get him out of there," Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the game.
Scott spoke to reporters at practice Thursday before knowing the MRI results, and he declined to state any plans without knowing those results.
The deadline to apply to the NBA for a disabled-player exception passed on Jan. 15, so the Lakers won't get roster relief from the injury if Bryant's season is over.
Bryant downplayed the issue after Wednesday night's game.
"I've played on a torn labrum before," Bryant said after scoring 14 points in 30 minutes. "I'm not too concerned about it."
Bryant, who is averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists, has been limited by injuries in recent seasons, playing just six games last season due to knee and Achilles injuries.
Bryant was voted in as a Western Conference All-Star starter Thursday night for a record 17th consecutive year but will have to be replaced if he's unable to play because of the injury.
Kobe Bryant Suffers Torn Rotator Cuff
Brian Windhorst reacts to the news that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has suffered a torn rotator cuff and discusses what this means for him and the team.