Joel Embiid has apologised for his middle finger gesture at Kevin Huerter and vowed to prove to his critics that he is the best player in the world.
The 25-year-old delivered a career-high 49 points, to go with 14 rebounds, as the Philadelphia 76ers eased to a 129-112 victory over Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
He had a chance to reach 50 in the final 30 seconds, but with the Sixers 17 points ahead Embiid instead appeared ready to run down the clock.
Huerter stole the ball off Embiid as he passed half court, however, prompting a one-finger salute that was picked up by the courtside cameras.
Explaining his actions after the game, Embiid told NBC Sports Philadelphia: "I want to say sorry for what I did at the end. Y'all probably saw that on TV. I'm sorry."
But when questioned on the same topic at a news conference, Embiid backtracked slightly by adding: "There's always this thing about you shouldn't shoot the ball if you're up 20.
"I feel like it should go both ways too. I mean, I'm running the clock down and I feel like the game is over, that's why I'm doing it.
"But to me, if the other team is going to keep playing defense and they're going to keep shooting the ball at the other end, I feel like we should just be like, 'Well, be better next time,' and just go out and score.
"I thought about it when I had the ball again, but I was like 'Eh, I'm going to stay cool.'"
Embiid has produced three big performances in a row for the Sixers, either side of a 22-point display in the NBA All-Star Game.
And after labelling himself among the league's elite performers following Philadelphia's overtime victory against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Embiid admitted it is down to him to prove his claim.
"What I said was that All-Star Game fourth quarter, I'm out there with some of the guys that are considered the best players in the world, and I'm out there just dominating, being unstoppable, doing whatever I want, especially in the post," he said.
"So to me, I just felt like that was a chance for me to prove that I deserved being in that conversation of being the best player in the world.
"That's what I said. But like I said tonight, if I play like that every night, like this, like I played tonight, what more can you say? I just gotta keep on doing it; I know I'm not, but I do believe it, because I got to prove it, I got to win.
"My goal is to win a championship - that's how you prove you're up there. I'm going to do everything I can to get to that point and win a championship."Published 25 Feb 2020, 15:16 IST