Tennis ace Andy Murray, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, and rower Katherine Grainger are all in the running for the title, from a list which is dominated by other Olympic and Paralympic champions.
The other nine names are: cyclist Bradley Wiggins, athletes Mo Farah and David Weir, sailor Ben Ainslie, golfer Rory McIlroy, heptathlete Jessica Ennis, cyclist Sarah Storey, boxer Nicola Adams, and swimmer Ellie Simmonds.
The inclusion of five female athletes is notable, since not a single woman made it on to last year's final shortlist despite a strong year of competition.
The controversy triggered a review of the process for this year's event, which has also produced a shortlist that includes two more sports personalities than usual.
An expert panel has also been introduced who will decide the prizes for Team of the Year, Coach of the Year and the Overseas Personality Award are to be decided by the expert panel.
After a golden summer of home-grown sport including the London 2012 Games, the event promises to be the biggest in the programme's 59-year history. It is being held at London's ExCeL centre on December 16.
Andy Murray has already indicated he will not attend because he is in training in Florida.
There is no place on the list for cyclist Jason Kenny who won two golds at London 2012 to add to the gold and silver medal he had already clinched at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Cyclist Laura Trott, another double gold medallist at London 2012, is also missing.
The impressive performance of triathlete Alistair Brownlee in clinching gold at the Olympics was enough to get him on the list.
There is also no place for star names including Paralympic T44 100m champion Jonnie Peacock and para-equestrian rider Sophie Christiansen whose golden hat trick at London 2012 means she now has five golds, a silver and bronze medal from three Paralympics.
Leaving these deserving athletes off the list was "very difficult," according to Barbara Slater, the BBC's sport director.
She wrote in her blog: "The panel also reflected long and hard on the heroics of stars from other sports such as (Europe's Ryder Cup golf hero) Ian Poulter during the 'miracle of Medinah', the continued brilliance of Carl Froch and the 'magnificent seven' from champion jockey Richard Hughes - in any other year these sportspeople would probably be front-runners to win the overall award.
"If we ever needed reminding just how special a sporting year it has been, then the list of those sportspeople who did not make the final 12 is testament to that."
The shortlist includes:
Andy Murray, 27, has enjoyed a successful year as the world number 3, and British number 1. The Glasgow-born tennis ace won the US Open, his first major grand slam tournament. He also won gold in the Olympics men's singles along with silver in the mixed doubles.
Sir Chris Hoy, 36, won two gold medals at London 2012 making him Britain's most successful winner with six gold medals in total. The Edinburgh-born cyclist won gold in the team sprint and the keirin at the London Olympics where he was also honoured as Team GB's flag bearer for the opening ceremony. Sir Chris also won gold in the keirin in the World Track Cycling Championships - his 11th world title.
Katherine Grainger, 37, finally won gold at the 2012 Olympics after a heartbreaking streak of coming second at the three previous Olympic Games. World champions Grainger and Anna Watkins had no problem hauling themselves to victory in the women's double sculls at Eton Dorney. The success of the Glasgow-born rower was one of the heart warming stories of the Olympics.
Jessica Ennis, 26, won gold in the heptathlon at the Olympics. Despite the pressure of being dubbed the face of London 2012, the Sheffield star won gold when she clocked a British points record of 6,955 and set the fastest-ever heptathlon time in the 100m hurdles.
Mo Farah, 29, joined athletics greats such as Zatopek, Kuts, Viren and Bekele as winner of the Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres double in London. He thrilled the home crowd with powerful finishes over the last lap to become the first Briton to win gold medals over both distances. Gutsy Somali-born Farah spent most of his early life in Djibouti and arrived in London when he was eight to join his father. Farah's story from the poverty-stricken streets of Somalia to top-flight athletics is one that serves as an inspiration, both in Britain and his place of birth. Farah currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Tania, daughter Rihanna and new twin daughters.
Ben Ainslie, 35, is now a four-time Olympic champion. His victory at London 2012 in the Finn class saw him overtake Denmark's Paul Elvstrom as the world's most successful Olympic sailor. He now has four golds from successive Games plus a silver in the Laser class at the 1996 Olympics in his trophy cabinet. He is also a 10-time World champion and has won the European title nine times. Ainslie had the honour of being Team GB's flag bearer for the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony and was picked to run the first leg of the London 2012 torch relay. Ainslie, who was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, and lives in lives in Lymington, Hampshire, is now preparing to try and win the America's Cup.
Sarah Storey, 35, won four golds at London 2012 to become Britain's most decorated female Paralympian with 11 titles in total. She won her fourth gold at London 2012 with a dominant display in the C4-5 Road Race at Brands Hatch to add to the C5 individual pursuit, C4-5 500m time trial and C5 individual time trial titles at the Games. Storey had been fast-tracked into Britain's Swimming team for the 1992 Paralympics at the age of 14 and brought home two gold, three silver and a bronze medal on her Paralympic debut. The former swimmer switched to cycling in 2005. With eight silver medals and three bronze in total from a 20-year career Storey has now surpassed former wheelchair racer Baroness Grey-Thompson's collection of 11 golds, four silvers and one bronze as Britain's most successful female Paralympian.
Storey lives in Disley, Cheshire.
Nicola Adams, 30, of Leeds, Yorkshire, created Olympic history by becoming the first woman to win a boxing gold medal. She won flyweight gold in stunning style and is now, complete with a beaming smile, a role model for a new generation of fight fans and women in sport.
Rory McIlroy, 23, the Northern Ireland golfer, established himself as world number 1, topping the money list in Europe and the United States. He won the USPGA Championship by eight shots in August, his second major victory. He was a key member of the European Ryder Cup team which beat the US at Medinah and became the first European to win four USPGA Tour events in a season.
Ellie Simmonds, now 18, won gold in the 200m SM6 individual medley and 400m S6 freestyle at the London 2012 Paralympics. She also won silver in the 100m S6 freestyle and bronze in the 50m S6 freestyle. Simmonds was one of Britain's most successful swimmers in Beijing 2008 where, aged just 13, she brought home two gold medals in the S6 100m freestyle and the S6 400m freestyle, making her the youngest ever Briton to win an individual gold medal at a Paralympic Games. Simmonds, who was born in Walsall but trains in Swansea, was born with achondroplasia or dwarfism.
David Weir, 33, of Wallington, Surrey, sealed his place as one of the most formidable wheelchair athletes in the world by winning four golds at London 2012. The wheelchair racer from Wallington, Surrey, won gold in T54 800m, 1500m, 5,000m and marathon at the London Paralympics to go alongside the two golds he picked up in the Beijing 2008 Paralympics.
Bradley Wiggins, 32, created history this summer by becoming the Tour's first British winner of the Tour de France. Just 10 days later he stormed home to win Olympic gold in the men's time trial. Wiggins has now won seven Olympic medals, including four golds. Wiggins of Chorley, Lancashire, has now returned to training after he was knocked off his bike on November 8.