Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James hobbled off the court Saturday afternoon and did not return after suffering a high ankle sprain during a 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. He will be out indefinitely.

James, who has emerged as one of the NBA’s leading MVP candidates this season, suffered the injury while being defended by Hawks forward Solomon Hill early in the second quarter. As James moved to his right while attempting to regain control of a loose ball, Hill reached for the ball and landed on James’s right leg. James’s ankle was briefly pinned under Hill’s left side before James freed himself and fell to the court in pain, clutching his right ankle.

Although James initially remained in the game and hit a three-pointer, he moved gingerly and departed for the locker room under his own power. The Lakers ruled him out for the rest of the game before the start of the second half at Staples Center. James departed with 10 points and four assists in 11 minutes.

The 36-year-old forward has missed just one game this season, when the Lakers chose to rest him before the all-star break. James missed just four games last year and played in every playoff game while leading the Lakers to the 2020 title, and he hasn’t suffered a serious injury since he strained his groin during a Christmas showdown with the Golden State Warriors in 2018.

“Nothing angers and saddens me more than not being available to and for my teammates! I’m hurt inside and out right now,” James wrote on Twitter. “The road back from recovery begins now. Back soon like I never left.”

The Lakers were already without all-star forward Anthony Davis, who has been sidelined since February with an Achilles’ injury. The defending champions are 28-14 and tied for second place in the Western Conference.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge any time you’re undermanned, but if you play team-first basketball and you defend at a high level, you’ll have a chance to win,” Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said during his postgame news conference. “That will be our mind-set.”

James entered Saturday’s action averaging 25.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8 assists, and he joins several high-profile players who are sidelined with injuries, including Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. The four-time champion ranks first in Real Plus Minus, seventh in Win Shares and 12th in Player Efficiency Rating.

“As a team, we’ve just got to step up,” Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said. “We’ll see what the roles are.”