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 number 33 during halftime of yesterday'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 at United Center.

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.

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

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

"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?"

* O'NEAL'S RETURN: Shaquille O'Neal may return to the Heat lineup as early as tomorrow, following more than five weeks away because of a badly sprained right ankle.

O'Neal missed his 18th straight game last night when the Heat hosted the Denver Nuggets.

* JABBAR'S FATHER DIES: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's father, Ferdinand L. Alcindor, died yesterday in New York from organ failure after a long bout with senile dementia. He was 86.

-- From News Services