Bulls retire Pippen's No. 33

CHICAGO -- Scottie Pippen did his best to check his emotions. It didn't work.

Surrounded by Michael Jordan and other former teammates and coaches, an emotional Pippen fought back tears as the Chicago Bulls retired his No. 33 during halftime of Friday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I want to let you know that you all have been a part of it," Pippen said during the ceremony.

His number is the fourth to hang from the rafters, joining Jordan's 23, Bob Love's 10 and Jerry Sloan's 4. Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause, the coach and general manager during the championship years, also have banners hanging from the rafters.

It was no coincidence the Bulls chose this night to honor Pippen, with Jackson and the Lakers in town.

"He was a great student and a really fine leader on the basketball court," Jackson said before the game. "He directed a lot of what happened, he was very much one of the reasons why we were successful over those six championships."

Teammates such as Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc sat in a semicircle near midcourt, as did Jackson, former Bulls assistants and Pippen's high school and college coaches. One notable absentee was former teammate and current Bulls general manager John Paxson, who was on a scouting trip.

A highlights package aired during the ceremony, as did taped messages from Paxson, commissioner David Stern, former Bulls coach Doug Collins and Charles Barkley. Pippen received replicas of the championship trophy and a framed replica of his banner.

Jackson jokingly recalled "memories of Scottie having migraines against Detroit" during his halftime speech.

Jordan said of Pippen: "I knew I had someone watching my back."

Pippen and Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA championships during the 1990s. Pippen was named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in 1996, was on two teams that won Olympic gold medals and was a seven-time All-Star.

He spent 12 of his 17 seasons with the Bulls and scored 18,940 points during a career that included stints with the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers. He ranks fifth on the NBA's all-time steals list with 2,307.

He holds the Bulls record for 3-pointers made (664) and attempted (2,031) and ranks second in points (15,123), field goals (5,991), field-goal attempts (12,444), free-throw attempts (3,576), offensive rebounds (1,687), defensive rebounds (4,039), assists (4,494), steals (1,792), seasons (12), games (856) and minutes (30,269).

Not bad for a guy who left high school without a scholarship and who was a team manager at Central Arkansas, an NAIA school.

Before the game, Jackson thought back to Pippen's rookie season -- specifically, the first practice.

"I walked into training camp, and he was sitting on the side of the court," said Jackson, then an assistant coach. "He wasn't participating in training camp, and Jerry Krause was totally enamored with the prospect of having Scottie on this team. He thought Scottie had an unlimited potential -- as much as an old favorite of his Earl Monroe, who he helped draft for the Baltimore Bullets. ... And Scottie Pippen more than surpassed that career."

In many ways, Pippen revolutionized the small forward position with his ball-handling skills, his scoring ability and defensive prowess.

"There is basically a position named after him," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "Everybody wants a Scottie Pippen-type three man. When they think of a three man, they immediately go to Pip's name. How many guys are that good that it happens that way?"

Yet Pippen has often been derided as Jordan's sidekick and as a player who sat out the final 1.8 seconds of a playoff game. Pippen also clashed with management during his first tenure with the Bulls and was traded to Houston following the team's sixth championship.

But former teammates and coaches praise Pippen's work ethic, his knowledge of the game and his understanding of his role.

"It's going to take a team effort to win championships," Grant said. "Michael's Michael. You can't compare anybody to a guy of his stature. We didn't mind 'getting overlooked' as long as we won championships and Michael respected our abilities."

Skiles, hired during the 2003-04 season, said Pippen was the "voice of reason" in the locker room as his career wound down. He was a mentor to the younger players after returning to the Bulls for his final season.

"Even though he was hurt -- he played some, didn't play some -- it was nice to have him around every day," Skiles said. "There are few players who seem to see the plays before they actually happen, and he was one of them."