Ronnie O'Sullivan is "close" to being bigger than snooker, says the sport's chairman Barry Hearn.
O'Sullivan turned down a maximum 147 break at the Welsh Open saying the £10,000 prize money was "too cheap"
He potted 14 reds and 13 blacks before opting for an easier pink as he made a 146 to beat Barry Pinches 4-1.
"Without personality and characters, sport dies," Hearn told BBC Radio 5 live. "O'Sullivan is the biggest character in the sport."
'Ronnie brings the game into fine repute'
Five-time world champion O'Sullivan had scored 80 in the break when he asked an official what the prize was for the highest break. He also asked the commentary box for information and looked visibly disappointed when told he could win up to £12,000.
The £10,000, boosted by the £2000 on offer for the highest break of the tournament, is a rolling prize fund at ranking events which has not been won since Neil Robertson made a 147 at the UK Championship last year.
|Most maximum 147 breaks in snooker history|
|13: Ronnie O'Sullivan|
|11: Stephen Hendry|
|6: John Higgins|
|5: Ding Junhui|
|4: Marco Fu, Shaun Murphy|
|See the full list here|
"I could have done it, but I didn't think the prize was worthy of a 147," O'Sullivan told BBC Sport after the match on Monday. "So I've tried to let it build up until it's worthy and then go for it."
O'Sullivan leads the list of most maximum 147 breaks compiled in snooker history, two ahead of Stephen Hendry.
Hearn, who initially criticised O'Sullivan's actions, said players had no obligation to go for certain shots and 'The Rocket' had not broken any rules.
"Some have said he has brought the game into disrepute but Ronnie brings the game into fine repute," Hearn said on Tuesday.
"In his little head, he thought it would be funny. He is quite dry. The 147 is a the pinnacle but Ronnie has made loads of them, he has got loads of money.
"He is the biggest character in the sport. When he breaks the rules, he gets punished, in this case, it was his choice.
"No-one is bigger than the game but Ronnie is close because he is a fabulous player and a fun personality.