Cyclist and the first ever British Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins is the early bookmakers' favourite for the crown, but will face stiff competition from fellow gold medal winners Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah.
Grand Slam and Olympic tennis champion Andy Murray, rower Katherine Grainger, boxer Nicola Adams, sailor Ben Ainslie and cyclist Sir Chris Hoy are also included.
Paralympians on the list include Sarah Storey, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir.
The only non-Olympic star on the list is golfer Rory McIlroy.
Viewers will be able to pick the winner of the iconic award via a phone vote on the night of December 16.
Following criticism of last year's shortlist, which didn't include any female athletes, this year's Sports Personality panel included Sir Steve Redgrave, Baroness Grey-Thompson, Denise Lewis and Baroness Campbell, chair of UK Sport.
Chair of the panel, BBC Director of Sport Barbara Slater, said: "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."
Other awards handed out during the evening will include Team of the Year, Coach of the Year, Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, Young Sports Personality of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Helen Rollason Award and Sports Unsung Hero. Full voting details are on bbc.co.uk/sportspersonality.
Sports Personality, which is being hosted by Sue Barker, Gary Lineker and Clare Balding, takes place at the ExCel Centre in London on Sunday, December 16 at 7.30pm and will air live on BBC One.